A PROTECTED tree will be cut down after a planning panel deemed the need for more homes to be greater than maintaining a single tree.

Bradford Council's Bradford Area Planning Panel went against the advice of their own tree officers and approved a planning application to build three homes at a site next to Leylands Medical Centre in Heaton.

The plan had been recommended for refusal due to the fact it would have involved the loss of a protected tree, which described by tree officers as a "large, mature specimen which is in good health."

The felling would be needed to create an access point to the development.

A second protected tree would need to be relocated for the same reason - but the application said this could be achieved through a process called "air spading." This would involve the roots being dug out, manually untangled from other roots and diverted to elsewhere on the site.

Protected trees lead to housing plans being dismissed

At the meeting, planning officer Jacob Muff said there were "significant concerns" about the impact of the plans on the trees. He said: "These trees contribute significantly to the character of the area and have a clear amenity value."

He said while officers had no issue with housing being built on the site, it could not be at the expense of the trees.

Applicant Waqaas Khan had said the development would prevent the site from being used for fly tipping and anti social behaviour. Mr Muff said there had been little evidence of fly tipping apart from "a few crisp packets thrown over the wall."

Referring to the air spading that the application says could successfully relocate the second protected tree, he said: "There is doubt as to whether this method will work, and the outcome would them be the loss of two protected trees."

Councillor Ibrah Hussain (Lab, Heaton) spoke on behalf of the applicants, saying: "There is a huge housing crisis in Bradford. There is a backlog of people looking to move into affordable homes.

"The applicants are trying to build homes and asking to develop an area that will play a part in tackling this issue."

Councillor Imran Khan (Lab, Bowling and Barkerend) was also speaking on behalf of the applicants, and said: "We always advocate building on brownfield land. This is scrub land that is an eyesore and needs to be developed. It will bring into use a site that has been empty a very, very long time."

Members were told that if they were not disturbed, the protected trees could live for up to 30 more years.

The replacement trees proposed by the applicants would not grow to the same significance for another 80 years.

Members heard from the applicant, who said they had consulted tree experts with over 100 years experience between them. They believed the plan to move the second tree would work.

Chair of the panel Councillor Sinead Engel (Lab, Clayton and Fairweather Green) recommended the panel back officers and refuse the application. She said there was no point having a policy on protected trees if the Council were to just ignore it.

But Councillor Mohammed Amran (Lab, Heaton) proposed members approve the plans. He said trees regularly fell down in that area, and the new trees planted as part of this scheme would last longer than these older trees.

He added: "We allow housing on Green Belt, but when we have plans to build on land like this we don't allow it. We need more houses in Heaton."

Councillor Si Cunningham (Lab, Bolton and Undercliffe) said: "We are in a difficult position. We respect the amenity of the mature trees, but we are blessed with many, many trees and green spaces in Bradford, and time and time again we hear about the acute housing need.

"When it comes to being pragmatic, we are making a decision based on one tree. If we approve the plan it doesn't mean we're going to destroy every single tree, it just means we're making a decision for this site. If the loss of one tree unlocks this site for housing then it is my view that we need to back that."

Four members voted to approve the plans, with two voting against.