Thursday, 8 July 2010
Other Questions (Resumed)
My Department published Tree Preservation Guidelines for Planning Authorities in March 1994, setting out a range of options open to planning authorities to influence and control the contributions that trees can make to the environment and our general quality of life.
The guidelines set out how the development plan can be used to ensure that general amenities of the planning authority's area are enhanced through policy measures aimed at protecting and preserving trees, including by identifying areas where trees are likely to be of amenity value or special interest. Practical suggestions are included in the guidelines to assist planning authorities in reviewing their development plans.
Part 11 of the guidelines deals with tree preservation orders, the statutory protection mechanism specifically aimed at tree preservation, which should be used when it is in the public interest. This Part also gives some practical guidance on preparing and making a tree preservation order.
The guidelines also deal with the role the planning application process can play in protecting trees and enhancing the amenity value of trees through a variety of measures, including pre-planning discussions, encouraging developers to carry out tree surveys, further information requests and specific conditions to be attached to planning permissions. Such measures can both protect existing trees and encourage new planting. In addition, the guidelines address enforcement issues and other measures that may be taken by planning authorities to ensure that the amenity value of trees is enhanced. I will keep the issue of whether these guidelines need to be updated under review.
Are there plans to update the guidelines? The Minister said he intends to keep the issue under review but 1994 is a long time ago and there has been a lot of development since then. Someone raised the issue with me who has some connection with groups that want to do more to conserve trees. The Minister could seek submissions about how the guidelines might be reformed. I ask the Minister to let me know if he has any plans.
I wish to respond to Deputy Tuffy. I would like to hear from councillors because given that it is a reserved function I was trying to recall from my time as a councillor how many times such a tree preservation order came before the council. I could not recall a single instance.
Many Members have served as councillors and they would agree with me on that issue. Therefore, we must hear from councillors on the effectiveness of the existing guidelines and whether they are being used. If Members feel the guidelines are not working effectively, I will keep them under review. I do not have any immediate plans in this regard but if I am shown how to improve the guidelines, I will consider the matter.