A PUBLIC consultation on a new tree protection process – which one resident has claimed makes owning trees ‘a liability’ – has been launched.
At a recent meeting at St Brelade’s Parish Hall, it was revealed that the proposed legislation could mean waits of up to 28 days for the Planning Department to decide whether an individual could conduct any sort of work on trees.
Commenting on the proposal, one Islander said: ‘We’ve been planting trees for years and you [the government] are making trees another liability.’
Dr Steve Webster, who is leading the consultation for the government, said: ‘I think the questions are sensible and straightforward. I can see where people are coming from.
‘I think, as people say that it’s supposed to be a straightforward notification process, to protect rather than to cause any undue hindrance to businesses or to unfairly prejudice people who are likely to be planting trees.
‘I think we can probably get the balance right because we might need more communication. And certainly that’s what people in business think.’
Speaking at the meeting, a tree surgeon stated that they received between 30 and 40 job requests each day. He said the idea of waiting 28 days for a response from Planning on whether he could conduct work came as ‘a shock’ and was ‘just unrealistic’.
As part of the proposed GDO Amendment Order, following a notification related to a tree, the chief officer of the Planning Department must inform the applicant whether they need to apply for planning permission.
Attendees at the consultation event also said that the proposed legislation, which follows the implementation of similar laws in the Isle of Man, did not make reference to branchage, a law which requires vegetation growth overhanging roads and footpaths to be cut back.
Dr Webster said: ‘I’m getting the message very clearly that we need to put in guidance about that.’
Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said: ‘It is clear from speaking to Islanders that tree protection is an issue they hold very close to their hearts so I am very pleased to be bringing forward these proposals.
‘It is not our intention to create unnecessary red tape and so this draft order includes a list of permitted operations and categories of trees for which no planning application will be necessary.’
He continued: ‘We need to ensure we get the balance right so that Islanders can still proceed with their gardening and tree maintenance tasks but that, at the other end of the spectrum, trees that have landscape or other value to the community aren’t being chopped down without proper consideration.’
To provide feedback on the proposed tree protection process and exceptions, visit gov.je/consultations. The consultation closes on 23 April.