Council draws the line over tree felling dispute near Swansea

A WORRIED resident whose house was damaged by a falling branch from a much-admired Corsican pine tree has been told it can’t be cut down.

The 70ft tree is on Swansea Council-owned land in West Cross – on the boundary of YGG Llwynderw – and adjacent to the rear garden of The Lodge, whose owner Alan Evans wants it to be felled. Mr Evans claimed the tree marginally sat on his land.

He said the falling five-metre branch damaged the corner of his roof when it was blown off during an intense storm in February, 2022.

The following month the council served a notice to have the Corsican pine protected by a tree preservation order (TPO).

A month later Mr Evans, who opposed the provisional TPO along with the headteacher of YGG Llwynderw, applied to the council to fell the tree having had it examined by an arboriculturalist. The tree expert said there was evidence of a disease known as tip blight, which could lead to branch failure, and also insect boreholes. There were 46 objections to the application, although some weren’t from people in Swansea.

One of the objectors said in an email to the council: “I have always found the applicant very likeable, friendly and supportive of the local community since he became our neighbour a few years ago, and I have no wish to cause him or his wife unnecessary anxiety.

“However, I feel that this tree is far too beautiful and iconic a feature of the neighbourhood for its demise to be driven by its immediate human neighbours’ fears, much as I can sympathise with their concerns and its perceived threat and actual damage to their property after one of the most powerful storms in several decades.

“Although suffering three broken branches, this tree proved its strength and resilience during this storm, standing whilst so many did not.”

Another objector, also of West Cross, said: “This tree is an integral part of our skyline, our community.”

In May, 2022, the council turned down Mr Evans’ application, saying suitable evidence hadn’t been provided to justify the pine’s demise given its neighbourhood value. Mr Evans appealed the decision, arguing that it was becoming a safety issue. Appeal documents said: “The potential for accidents from falling branches is high.”

Mr Evans was also concerned that the trees’ needles were clogging his home’s drainpipes and roof valleys and that the adjacent stone wall was being damaged.

The council contested the appeal, which has now been decided in the local authority’s favour by Welsh Government-appointed planning inspector Iwan Lloyd.

Mr Lloyd said the council had also noted evidence of tip blight, but that the tree’s canopy appeared to be “characteristically green”, albeit fairly sparsely covered. He said Mr Evans’ arboriculturalist estimated its life expectancy at five years, while the council estimated it at 20-40 years.

Mr Lloyd added that the Corsican pine provided “significant amenity value” for the neighbourhood.

“Although there are several trees in the area this appeal tree is particularly prominent and is a significant landscape feature,” he said.

Mr Lloyd said he sympathised with Mr Evans’ concerns but said cutting it down required strong justification.

Turning to the boreholes, Mr Lloyd said he saw some small holes on one side of the tree’s stem but that they were different to those shown on a photo by Mr Evans’ tree expert. Mr Lloyd said the holes shown on the photo could have been bark fissures.

“There is no diagnostic or structural evidence that would support the conclusion that the appeal tree’s health and condition would give rise to imminent failure,” he said.

“There is an increased concern on the part of the appellant about safety and I sympathise given that the house, the playground, and the road is within striking range of this tree.

“It is claimed that further branch failure is expected. However, the council indicate that it plans to undertake pruning works to the tree to reduce the likelihood of branch failure in high wind events. This, the council claim, is a precautionary measure rather than an admission of the tree’s defects.”

Mr Evans said he believed the condition of the tree had deteriorated since he and his wife moved into The Lodge seven years ago, and that he didn’t realise back then the impact it would have on them.

Mr Evans has responded to planning environment decisions Wales (PEDW) about Mr Lloyd’s decision report, alleging that it contained some inaccuracies and was flawed. He said PEDW had 20 working days to respond.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted PEDW and also asked the council when it planned to carry out pruning works, but did not receive responses at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, the TPO for the Corsican pine was approved in July 2022 by the council’s planning committee.

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