CPRE slams ‘pre-emptive strike’ by developers

Countryside campaigners have expressed “profound shock and dismay” at the deliberate destruction of mature oak trees at a Green Belt site in Oxted, Surrey. The 10 trees at the site off Chichele Road were ‘girdled’ (the bark cut through with a chainsaw so that the tree dies). Tandridge Council is investigating a potential offence regarding Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) on some of those trees. This “environmental vandalism” has taken place on Green Belt land before any planning application has been submitted by the developers and before an Environmental Impact Assessment, requested by Tandridge Council, could be carried out.
The Surrey Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has condemned this “pre-emptive strike” by the would-be developers of the site, who want to build 140 houses there. CPRE Surrey Branch Director Andy Smith said: “We find such pre-emptive strikes totally unacceptable. What has happened is an act of environmental vandalism but unfortunately it is an increasingly common practice among landowners and developers. As soon as they see that a Tree Preservation Order is going to be issued they do what they can to get rid of the trees so that there is nothing left to preserve. Many developers are utterly unscrupulous.”
He added: “We are particularly concerned that this should happen in Tandridge where all Green Belt land should be safe from development. The local council has an approved Core Strategy, there is a healthy five-year housing land supply, and the council has made clear that it does not need to build on the Green Belt. The district still has a number of brownfield sites that could be developed for housing – most notably a huge rusting gas-holder in the centre of Oxted, which is a prime site for development – and in our view the local council has done absolutely everything in its power, and more, to be proactive about new housing and to meet the nationally-set housebuilding targets. So there really is no need to sacrifice Green Belt sites in Tandridge. Developers need to get the message, loud and clear, that they will not get away with wrecking Green Belt land in this district. The Green Belt is sacrosanct.”
Sam Gyimah, MP for East Surrey, has stated that: “Development on Green Belt land in Tandridge is completely unnecessary as Tandridge District Council has allocated enough land to meet its housing needs, including affordable housing.”
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