I would like to first point out that the Trust's proposal to fell the Trees is entirely unrelated to its proposals to redevelop part of the Atkinson Morley's Hospital site. This is an entirely separate land management issue that has required the Trust's urgent attention in order to protect the safety and well being of the general public who pass in the vicinity of the Trees. The proposed development would have no impact on the Trees. It is likely however that the proposed redevelopment would actually benefit from these trees. The Trust is therefore reluctant to fell them but feels it must do so to fulfil its duty to protect the public.
I think it will be helpful if I explain some of the background to the Trust's notification to the London Borough Merton as the Trust has acted openly and reasonably throughout:
1. Colin Bashford of CBA Ltd, who is the arboriculturalist assisting in the preparation of the environmental statement to be submitted with the planning application for the redevelopment of the site, became aware of the condition of the Trees as a result of the surveys he has carried out as part of the preparation of the environmental statement to accompany the planning application. He subsequently advised the Trust of the Trees' dangerous condition and recommended that they are felled and replaced. The felling of the Trees would be in reliance of the exception provided in section 198 (6) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (the Act) which allows the felling of Tree Preservation Order protected trees without consent if they have become dangerous.
2. On the instructions of the Trust, Colin obtained quotes for the provision of replacement trees. The Trust has every intention of replacing all trees felled with trees of an appropriate size and species and in the same place (fully in accordance with its obligations under the Act).
3. Ian Hamilton met with the Andrew Judge, the Leader of the Council, to discuss, amongst other issues, the Trees. They agreed that this was serious matter and that they should work together to resolve it. Following this meeting, on 9 April, the London Borough of Merton's tree officer, Rose Stepanek, met with CBA Ltd on site to inspect the Trees. This was a positive meeting and Mr Bashford provided a copy of his tree survey to Mrs Stepanek, London Borough of Merton's arboriculturalist subsequently returned to the site and carried out further investigations. It is our understanding that the London Borough of Merton also commissioned an independent tree expert to inspect the Trees.
4. 5 days after the above mentioned site meeting, Mr Bashford, having heard nothing further from the London Borough of Merton, provided the London Borough of Merton with the requisite 5 days notice of the Trust's intention to fell the Trees. Five days notice is expressly required under the Tree Preservation Order.
The Trust's lawyers have now written to the London Borough of Merton on the Trust's behalf undertaking not to carry out any felling work as a result of the 5 day notice and pending the outcome of an application to the council for consent to fell the trees under the Tree Preservation Order and any subsequent appeal from the council's decision. The Trust hopes that this dispenses with your need to convene an emergency meeting.
for your information, I have blind copied this email to a number of other people who have expressed their views on the Trust's proposals to fell the Trees. I hope this serves to allay their concerns too.
Catherine McLoughlin CBE
St. George's Healthcare NHS Trust