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Letter: Doomed Stoke Park Oaks Raises Questions For Architect And Council

Published on: 8 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 8 Oct, 2021

From Wayne Smith

This afternoon (Friday, October 8) while on a walk through Stoke Park, I found the attached notice fixed to the fenced-off area adjacent to the damaged oak trees.

See Fight To Save Oak Trees At The New Guilden Village Student Development

Guildford Borough Council notice on security fence around the oaks in Stoke Park.

Unsurprisingly, the two trees are now to be cut down week commencing on October 11.

It is hard to believe that any competent architect would have incorporated into their design two mature oak trees less than three metres from a building and casting great shade on adjacent rooms for a large portion of the year.

The two oak trees next to the “luxury” student accommodation named Guilden Village, are protected by tree preservation orders.

What does this say about Guildford Borough Council’s planning department allowing the development in the first place without any caveats? And then failing to monitor the building work as it progressed? Are we really to believe that the damage to the root structure was only noticed upon building completion?

The notion is laughable!

What will the punishment be for the developer? A slap on the wrist? A paltry fine?

Why should we residents have any confidence in the competency of Guildford Borough Council planning officers and the planning committee to oversee anything to do with the much talked of town centre redevelopment, never mind the infamous Local Plan foisted upon us by the previous failed administration.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has written to Guildford Borough Council and the contractor, McAleer Rushe, asking for an explanation of how this could have happened, what options have been considered to save the trees and, if the oaks have to be destroyed, what replacements would be considered.

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test 8 Responses to Letter: Doomed Stoke Park Oaks Raises Questions For Architect And Council

  1. Bill Dewey Reply

    October 9, 2021 at 11:04 am

    No, nothing will happen because GBC planners are part of the problem so the whole matter will quite likely be forgotten

  2. Ann Yendole Reply

    October 9, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    I don’t think GBC’s planning dept “allowed” the development at all. If memory serves, it was approved by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal, overturning GBC’s decision to refuse planning permission. See the link here.

    • Wayne Smith Reply

      October 10, 2021 at 12:22 pm

      Thank you for the clarification and the linked article.

      Two points spring to mind:

      1. Being approved on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate surely doesn’t absolve GBC’s planning department of any oversight of a major project happening on their ‘patch’

      2/. Future Generation have agreed £250,000 towards environmental improvements in Stoke Park.

      They haven’t made a very good start! Will they surprise us with a substantial voluntary increase in the amount to reflect the damage done?

      It would also be interesting to know how GBC intends to spend this money ?

    • John Ferns Reply

      October 10, 2021 at 9:09 pm

      No blame should be ascribed to the planning committee. When it was brought to their attention, they refused the application.

      The villains are the GBC planning department who originally approved the scheme, presumably as a result of having considered all the input from the statutory bodies for ecology and arboriculture? It was only because sufficient members of the public challenged the recommendation that the matter was brought before the planning committee.

      Backstop might and should have been GBC’s own in-house ‘tree officer’ whom we might expect sign off on the project? If only to detail the list of relevant conditions to safeguard the trees.

      If he did, and there were relevant conditions imposed, then the culpability lies with the developers.

      No blame therefore should be ascribed to the planning committee of the time but we should expect the current executive to fully investigate and publicly report their findings to the wider community.

      I’m afraid this looks like just another case of the planning department being blindsided by developers. And it has happened too often with protected trees and hedges, as we in Ash & Tongham have learned to our cost in recent years.

  3. J Holt Reply

    October 10, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    If the building has not been built according to the approved plans surely the building should be cut down and the trees preserved.

  4. R Owen Reply

    October 10, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    This is a great example of zero carbon and the green agenda in action. Bravo to all involved in uniformly ignoring all this plus protection orders.

  5. Susie Campbell Reply

    October 12, 2021 at 9:10 am

    Really shocking to see this negligence concerning such valuable tree stock at a time when we have just seen the report on the UK’s terrible record on nature and biodiversity – here we see some of the reasons why in action.

  6. Laura Wilder Reply

    October 12, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    The building is a monstrosity with its neon lights, rooftop crazy golf, private dining and so on. It’s ridiculous. I am so sad and angry at the lack of respect for our beautiful trees and parkland.

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