NEW proposals to protect trees using the Planning Law have been lodged by the Environment Minister, following extended public consultation this year.
Deputy Jonathan Renouf acknowledged that the original proposals – which attracted significant public criticism when released – were ‘unnecessarily restrictive’ but he said he hoped that the revised approach would strike a balance between protecting trees and allowing routine work to take place.
The amendment to the Planning Law will bring work on trees under the definition of ‘development’ unless it is considered ‘routine management’, or allowed under other exemptions. It was the detail of those exemptions that previously aroused controversy.
Deputy Renouf highlighted a number of changes of approach set out in the proposition, which is expected to be debated by the States next month. The changes include an increase in the size of trees which will not be classed as development – from a diameter of 8cm at 1.5m above the ground to 25cm; allowing work to domestic and commercial fruit trees; and allowing works of ‘routine management’ as specified in guidance to be published by the minister.
Such management, based on best practice in the UK, will include crown thinning that removes up to 30% of a tree’s crown, crown lifting as long as the remaining crown makes up at least two-thirds of the height of the tree; re-pollarding of trees that have been historically pollarded; and cutting, trimming and shaping of hedgerows.
Work on diseased trees, those that pose a danger to the public, or those damaging buildings, are among other exemptions. Dead branches can still be removed from trees, and work on trees specifically required under other laws – including branchage – is also exempt.
Deputy Renouf also drew attention to the inclusion of woodland management plans in the new law. Currently being developed, he said these would allow landowners with larger wooded areas to get approval for a plan that will then mean that trees within the approved plan do not require individual applications.
Commenting on the proposition, the minister said: ‘This is something that was voted for by the previous Assembly, and I have consulted widely on it. I would like to think that this is a much better version – that is the point of consultation – that exempts routine work but protects trees in the landscape which have value for different reasons.’
Architect Bob Godel, a critic of the original proposition, declined to comment on the minister’s proposals but said he hoped to attend a meeting next week involving tree surgeons and landscape gardeners – dissenting voices earlier this year – to consider the proposals that will go to the States.
Meanwhile, the government has released a tree map showing trees over 3m in the Island, through aerial photography and a LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) survey undertaken in 2021.
The map has been produced by the Infrastructure and Environment regulation team, which said it would allow the total number of trees to be estimated.
‘In 2021, Jersey was surveyed by aircraft using digital photography and LIDAR (light detection and ranging). This process has inherent limitations, as trees are not uniform in shape or size, and there will be many inconsistencies with layered vegetation or where trees grow with multiple trunks. Dense woodland and tightly planted hedgerows also make for a more complicated analysis.
‘This type of spatial approach allows the ability to consider trees not only for their individual unique value but the broad Island-wide perspective and their collective role as corridors for biodiversity across a whole ecological landscape,’ they said.
The map is among others showing aspects of nature in the Island available to view on gov.je