Shropshire Council’s tree team has voiced its disapproval at the final design of the Rocks Green supermarket site (20/00840/REM). It says the scheme does not represent the best possible sustainable design because “the development fails to effectively protect restore and enhance the natural assets that are key to the character and amenity of the area.”
The team is very critical of the limited space being provided for trees, saying there is a risk of overcrowding, poor growth and one in five trees dying.
The store will be much bigger than originally proposed: 34,000 sq ft instead of the 25,000 sq ft originally approved. Despite a slight reduction in parking spaces from 225 to 219, the increased size of the supermarket has led to a cramped layout with little space for landscaping.
“Whilst in principle the Tree Team see no specific arboricultural objection to some form of development at this site… the development fails to effectively protect restore and enhance the natural assets that are key to the character and amenity of the area… 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.”
From that statement you can gather that tree team based at Shirehall are not happy with the proposals. It says the applicant has an opportunity at this site to provide an example of the very best in landscape design. But that opportunity has not been taken.
At present the site is well integrated into the landscape with mature trees along the A49 and A4117 serving as an effective screen to the site and filtering light, noise and air pollution from the roundabout, protecting the Rocks Green housing estate.
“This new development proposes to remove the effective tree cover and significantly change the nature and character of the area. As a historic market Town Ludlow and the surrounding area benefit heavily from tourism, it is therefore of the upmost importance that the sustainability and tourism aspirations set out in the Shropshire Core Strategy deliver effective long-term integration of any development at key gateways to market towns representing the very highest of standards of design so that development is appropriate and integrates with the exiting landscape and preserves, conserves or enhances the natural and built environment.”
The tree team say the developer has not provided enough detail about landscaping to give “confidence that the designer has an understanding of the long-term requirements and characteristics of the tree species being used and the dynamics of such intimate planting schemes in such harsh environments.” The team fears that the development will be “doomed to replicate numerous examples of un-successful carpark planting that adorn most modern retail developments.” Typically, 20% of trees die within five years with a steady degradation of the remaining stock soon after.
One of the problems, tree team says, is that the scale of the development has resulted in the parking arrangements being pushed to the boundaries of the site leaving only a narrow strip for landscaping. The boundary planting will have no real depth. The plan is to plant a native hedge on the site boundary, with English oak and fastigiated hornbeam in clusters. Parking bays will come right up to the boundary planting. Eventually the trees will cause problems as they grow and there will need to be hard pruning of overhanging branches. And it is pointless to plant oak in clusters because competition between the trees will lead to poor specimens.
The current plan is to plant English Oak, holm oak, and small leaf lime in the car park and amenity strips. The tree team fears the restricted rooting in the narrow strips would “result in a cycle of stress that leads to a failure to thrive followed by a moribund existence and premature death”.
Who knows whether any new supermarkets will be built for a long while after the current health emergency. But the planning process goes on, with many of Shropshire Council’s planning staff working from home. One said last week: “Andy, Unusual times yes – I type this from a camping table in an unheated room!” But whether there is an appetite from developers and retailers to progress applications and then build a scheme like this is unknown territory.