Rocks Green supermarket should be scaled down to protect landscape says Shropshire Council tree officer

Shropshire Council’s tree and woodland protection officer, Dougald Purce, has criticised the proposal for a new supermarket at Rocks Green because the design puts profit before landscape protection. In a comment on the application last week, he said:

In order to maximise the commercial potential of the site the buildings and parking have taken priority over landscape, a less adventurous proposal would be better able to provide a sustainable integrated development at this key gateway to Ludlow.

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Dougald’s follows criticism of the scheme by the council’s conservation officers. He says the site currently blends into the landscape but the new scheme will not:

At present the site is well integrated into the landscape with mature trees along the A49 and the B4117 serving as an effective screen to the site from views in, and as a filter to the site and neighbouring development off Duncow Road for light, noise, and air pollution from this busy junction. The surrounding area to the west is heavily developed but effectively screened by woodland with a core area that makes the screening robust and effective. This new development proposes to remove the existing effective tree cover and significantly change the nature and character of the area.

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In Dougald’s book, the scheme does not meet the high standards of design required to protect town like Ludlow:

As a historic market Town Ludlow and the surrounding area benefit heavily from tourism, it is therefore of the utmost importance that… [the development represents] the very highest of standards of design so that development is appropriate and integrates with the existing landscape and preserves, conserves or enhances the natural and built environment.

Dougald says the size of the store and the need for a large number of parking spaces has squeezed out effective screening of the site:

The scale of the development has resulted in the parking arrangements being pushed to the very boundaries of the site leaving the proposed boundary landscape features as narrow strips… The boundary feature will have no real depth, and whilst if successfully established it might help break up the skyline of this very prominent development it will in no way provide the benefits and depth of screening afforded by the existing tree cover.

He says proposals to plant English (pedunculate) oak for screening are “pointless” as overcrowding and the tree’s adjacency to the car park will lead to poor specimens. Their growth could also damage the car park surface. He is equally dismissive of plans to plant small leaved limes saying their survival within a car park context is “questionable”.

Dougald concludes by suggesting the applicant, Blackfriars Developments, should scale down the proposal and improve its design:

In order to maximise the commercial potential of the site the buildings and parking have taken priority over landscape, a less adventurous proposal would be better able to provide a sustainable integrated development at this key gateway to Ludlow. The applicant has an opportunity at this site to provide an example of the very best in landscape design… It is our recommendation that due to the high profile of this site, that any final approved application would need to include comprehensive evidence based landscape proposals that reflect the very best of arboricultural and landscape practice.

To achieve this, at least three metres of open space should be provided between the boundary trees and the car park. The A49 boundary be planted with a staggered double row of lime trees to give greater resilience and depth to the screening.