Ridicule for 'tiny' replacement trees supposed to screen huge Preston warehouses after felling row

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A resident living opposite a controversial warehouse development in Fulwood has branded trees designed to replace those wrongly removed during its construction as “a joke”.

Mark McCormack says the recent planting of what he describes as “saplings” alongside the three, 12-metre tall buildings – at the junction of Eastway and D’Urton Lane – have added almost comical insult to the longstanding injury felt by those living nearby.

It comes as Preston City Council revealed that it has not yet been provided with enough detail to determine a fresh planning application submitted in an effort to address “a breach of planning control” in connection with the D’Urton Lane Business Park site.

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The authority granted HBS Group permission for the trio of suburban superstructures – containing a total of 10 individual units – back in April 2021. At that time, the plot was shielded from surrounding roads by tightly-packed trees and shrubbery.

Preston City Council launched an investigation after allegations of the unauthorised removal of trees from the sitePreston City Council launched an investigation after allegations of the unauthorised removal of trees from the site
Preston City Council launched an investigation after allegations of the unauthorised removal of trees from the site
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The original planning application indicated that some of the foliage would have to be removed, but the woodland area lining the south west corner of the plot – along Eastway – was, according to an initial landscaping plan, to be “retained” and even “reinforced” with further planting.

Residents were dismayed when the green border they were used to instead disappeared altogether – leaving them with two of the vast, grey-coloured caverns as their new outlook. Locals have previously labelled the buildings – which are up to 72 metres wide – as an “eyesore” and “monstrosity”.

A new landscaping proposal forms part of the yet-to-be-assessed planning application, which seeks to vary some of the conditions attached to the original permission. However, Mark says he and his neighbours are thoroughly unimpressed with what they have seen so far.

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The households opposite the D'Urton Lane Business Park were hoping for more green and less grey to look out onThe households opposite the D'Urton Lane Business Park were hoping for more green and less grey to look out on
The households opposite the D'Urton Lane Business Park were hoping for more green and less grey to look out on

“It’s quite hilarious, really – they’ve [used] tiny little twig trees. There’s no point to them,” he told the Lancashire Post.

The Broughton Tower Way resident conceded that it would not be feasible to replace the established tree cover that was lost on a like-for-like basis, but added: “I’m sure you could do a lot better job than they have attempted.

“I think there is a definite middle ground [whereby] they could have put in an effort and said, ‘This is the most we can do to rectify it’ – or try to make it less horrendous.

“But, quite clearly, what they have [planted] is just a joke – and because it [was done] in December, there [were] no leaves on [them].”

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The trees that towered over the Eastway and D'Urton Lane roundabout until they felled two years ago (image: Google)The trees that towered over the Eastway and D'Urton Lane roundabout until they felled two years ago (image: Google)
The trees that towered over the Eastway and D'Urton Lane roundabout until they felled two years ago (image: Google)

He said that while locals would never have fallen in love with their giant new neighbours, most would have at least been spared the sight of the warehouses if the trees had simply been left in the ground.

“The original tree line was about 15 metres tall and the buildings are a [few] metres less than that. So if they’d have left a significant amount of the tree line, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad.

“In the summer, you couldn’t see through the trees – and then there was a portion [of shrubbery] at the bottom that had grown up to create this nice effect.

“It doesn’t help that [the buildings] are absolutely disgusting – that’s bad enough. But the ultimate kick in the proverbials for people round here.was the fact that they took all the trees down.

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The three warehouses on the D'Urton Lane Business Park in Fulwood are around 12 metres tallThe three warehouses on the D'Urton Lane Business Park in Fulwood are around 12 metres tall
The three warehouses on the D'Urton Lane Business Park in Fulwood are around 12 metres tall

“It all felt wrong from day one. [The application] was approved very quickly with very little consideration and [I did think that] this is probably how it would turn out,” Mark said.

The Post attempted to contact HBS Group via their planning agent for comment on the issues raised in this report.

GROWING PAINS

A landscape management plan submitted with the new planning application acknowledges that, initially, “planting along the B6241 [Eastway] was to be retained”, but was ultimately “removed during the construction and will require reinstatement”.

It adds that “woodland planting” is now proposed along that southwestern boundary, together with a mix of so-called “specimen trees” which will “provide screening of the development to properties facing the site, along the B6241 road”.

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“These trees are to replace the trees removed during construction. Trees are to be spaced sufficiently to provide screening over time,” the document explains.

The sparse saplings - seen here on the Eastway elevation of one of the warehouses - have been mockedThe sparse saplings - seen here on the Eastway elevation of one of the warehouses - have been mocked
The sparse saplings - seen here on the Eastway elevation of one of the warehouses - have been mocked

A significant level of new planting is also proposed elsewhere on the plot, including at the northern border, along D’Urton Lane, to replace trees that were always intended to be removed under the original plans.

It is unclear whether the trees that appeared on the site before Christmas – and which have left residents like Mark McCormack so underwhelmed – form part of the new landscaping vision.

The landscape management plan was submitted to the city council in August last year and anticipated that the proposed woodland would be installed “in the planting season of winter 2023–2024” and ornamental herbaceous and bulb planting during “summer/autumn 2023.”

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It also set out how the new planting should be managed over the long term as it grows.

WHAT IS THE COUNCIL DOING?

Preston City Council issued a “planning contravention notice” over the D’Urton Lane Business Park development in June 2022.

According to the authority’s latest enforcement update, that move required the applicant to provide information within 21 days to demonstrate that the development had been “carried out in accordance with the requirements of the conditions attached to the planning permission…because the information was not prior submitted to the local planning authority for approval”.

One of those conditions stipulated that a landscaping and ecology enhancement plan and a separate landscape management plan must be approved in writing by the city council before any ground works began.

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The latter document was required, the authority said, to ensure the landscaping works “contribute to a satisfactory standard of completed development” and so that its “long-term appearance harmonises with its surroundings”.

The enforcement update states that the applicant has submitted a revised planning application “in an attempt to seek to address the breach of planning control”.

However, Phil Cousins, the city council’s development management team leader, told a meeting of the authority’s planning committee last week that the application to “regularise” the scheme was lacking in detail – meaning members could not yet be asked to come to a decision over whether what was being proposed to put the situation right was acceptable.

“Unfortunately, the information, [that has been] provided isn’t sufficient…for us to bring it to [the] planning committee for a determination.

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“The [planning] officer has recently been in contact yet again to try and get this moved forward so we can…hopefully secure a satisfactory development and…also satisfy the concerns of residents who are rightly upset regarding it,” explained Mr. Cousins, who described the case as “deeply frustrating”.

Committee member Fiona Duke said residents regularly asked her why nothing appeared to be being done. She also warned of the need for speed when it comes to new planting.

“I’m just mindful that the window for planting trees and shrubs would be the end of March, so if that doesn’t align [with consideration of the new application], it might be yet another year before we can get a successful planting scheme in place,” Cllr Duke said.

In a statement to the Post issued after the meeting, a Preston City Council spokesperson confirmed that there was “more than one breach of planning control” at the location.

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“The council received an enforcement complaint alleging the unauthorised removal of trees was being carried out at the site. As part of the enforcement investigation, officers identified…other breaches of planning control at the site and [that] planning conditions attached to the planning permission had not been discharged.

“In response to the council’s enforcement investigation, the applicant has submitted planning application 06/2023/0597, which seeks to vary conditions attached to planning permission 06/2020/0941 and provide the necessary information to satisfy the requirements of the conditions. Details of the application are available to view on the council’s website.”

***This article was updated on 7th February to remove a reference stating that the vape firm IVG was an occupier of one of the units on the site. The Post has been advised that the company vacated the premises last year.