Oscar nominees say Cardiff council is enabling tree destruction
A pair of Oscar-nominated animators have accused Cardiff council of enabling the destruction of trees so wealthy residents who have moved into an exclusive housing development can enjoy unimpeded views of iconic parkland.
Joanna Quinn and Les Mills, who live in the Welsh capital, respectively directed and wrote Affairs of the Art, based on their character Beryl, which was nominated for the best short animated film in the 2021 Academy Awards.
In recent years they have been involved in campaigning against what they see as attempts to erode the green lungs of the city.
Mr Mills said: “When we were out walking two weeks ago, we noticed that the council’s tree workmen were once again at work on one of the few remaining trees in the area of the new high-end housing development at Penhill Rise overlooking Llandaff Fields.
“We questioned them about why they hadn’t simply removed the broken branch, treated the tree and trimmed or pollarded it instead of totally removing it, and they gave us the now usually evasive answer about the whole tree being rotten because water had got into the tree body through a broken branch which had fallen in a storm very recently, and words to the effect that the council’s policy now is to remove trees completely not treat or pollard them because it’s too expensive to maintain.
“The background is that the council gave a developer planning permission to construct a group of expensive four-storey luxury houses at Penhill Rise adjacent to and overlooking Llandaff Fields.
“The houses were built there despite being sited on a very dangerous corner of one of the busiest road junctions in Cardiff and despite the fact that once the houses were built they would inevitably dominate that area of the park because of their position and height. It was obvious to everybody that when completed the development would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the rural ambience of this corner of Llandaff Fields.
“At the time we noted that one of the major selling points put forward by the developers was that because of their height, the owners of the new houses would have superb views over Llandaff Fields. It was pointed out to them and presumably the potential buyers that there were many very mature trees bordering the corner directly in front of the proposed development site and that the trees would block off much of the promised view.
“Our concern at the time was that the council would eventually pander to the developer’s hype evident in their sales material, and would probably give way to future homeowners’ pressure to eliminate the remaining mature bushes and trees fronting their properties in order to further improve their view of the park. In the process it would mean completely destroying many trees and revealing more of their private houses to park users.
“This indeed is what has been happening, and over the last two years yet more of the trees have disappeared. Bit by bit the council is denuding the area around the houses of mature trees and bushes and eventually there won’t be any remaining, with the houses completely dominating the area. Already the development in its entirety is beginning to resemble a single modernist mansion with Llandaff Fields as its country estate.
“The excuses generally given by the council for tree removal are standard – ‘parts of the trees have become diseased and are a danger to the public’ or ‘the tree has grown to a dangerous height’ etc. Priceless mature trees have been removed all over the city, usually at the behest of developers and builders or because new owners of properties simply do not like trees.
“In the case of Penhill, one of the owners screamed abuse at me recently when I was standing in Llandaff Fields photographing the decimated bushes in front of the wooden surrounding wall. He told me: ‘Stop that immediately, you can’t photograph here, this is private property’ etc etc.
“We noticed this same guy liaising with the council workmen felling the tree near Penhill Rd two weeks ago.
The gradual diminution of the mature tree cover bordering the houses will mean that eventually the development will be completely devoid of any surrounding trees or mature bushes. The actual effect of allowing this private development to be built where it is has now become very apparent. It has radically changed the outlook that thousands of parks users of all ages enjoyed when they used to frequent this quiet corner of Llandaff Fields.
“The houses now completely dominate a once unspoilt green corner of an extremely public and fragile space and the houses are visible to park users from most areas of Llandaff Fields. In reality this area of the park has been urbanised and the whole ambiance of the area has changed by the siting of these very intrusive high-end houses built purely for the benefit of a developer and a few affluent buyers at the expense of thousands of park users of all ages and persuasions.”
Nerys Lloyd-Pierce, who chairs Cardiff Civic Society, said: “It seems extraordinary that yet another tree in front of The Rise development is unsafe and requires felling. Conveniently enough, the removal of these trees opens up the view for the residents. As usual, our local councillors appear unable to help the local community, many members of which are incensed at the repeated removal of trees and shrubs from the parkland surrounding The Rise.
“The council should remember that its duty lies in protecting the community and the much cherished parkland that contributes to our health and wellbeing.”
A spokesman for Cardiff council said: “The council is committed to increasing the city’s tree canopy and hedgerow cover across the city and in the last two planting seasons has planted over 50,000 trees in Cardiff.
“The council employs inspectors and tree surgeons that are qualified and experienced in the work that they do and only remove trees that are dead, dying, diseased or in declining health which can pose a danger to public safety. The council can confirm that the parks department were called out a week ago to this site to assess a Lime tree, as it had shed a ‘large limb’. On inspection, the inspector had serious concerns about the structural integrity of the tree, so in the interests of public safety the tree had to be felled.
“The laurel hedge on this site runs across the boundary of the site between the parkland and the development. The root structure of the hedgerow is planted on private land, so most of this hedgerow is part of the development and not on parkland. Given this, the residents living in these properties are entitled to reduce the height of the hedge if they so wish.”
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