Bath Chronicle

Cricket club not pur­sued over ‘£200k tree dam­age’

- Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter stephen.sum­ner@reach­ Bath Cricket Club · Bath and North East Somerset · Bath and North East Somerset · Richard Long

The city coun­cil de­cided not to pur­sue com­pen­sa­tion of up to £200,000 af­ter Bath Cricket Club con­trac­tors were found to have dam­aged trees on a bank owned by the author­ity.

Fol­low­ing a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest, Bath and North East Som­er­set Coun­cil re­leased emails show­ing of­fi­cers call­ing for en­force­ment ac­tion or a civil suit to claim dam­ages for the harm to the trees.

De­spite of­fi­cers press­ing for ac­tion the coun­cil did not pur­sue either op­tion, and has said a civil claim was not needed and was not in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

The 11 trees in North Pa­rade Road were on land owned by the author­ity, which had not given con­sent, but its or­ders for the en­gi­neer­ing work to stop in Fe­bru­ary 2019 were ig­nored, the doc­u­ments show. Some have since been cut back to stop them fall­ing af­ter se­vere dam­age to their roots.

The cricket club se­cured plan­ning per­mis­sion in March 2018 to re­de­velop its car park and build 136 stu­dent flats, an in­door cricket school and a new teach­ing and learn­ing space.

Fol­low­ing the en­gi­neer­ing works, B&NES Coun­cil com­mis­sioned ar­bori­cul­tural con­sul­tants to carry out a sur­vey that val­ued the dam­age caused at £200,000.

They used a cal­cu­la­tion “de­signed to as­sist lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in achiev­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate level of com­pen­sa­tion where pub­licly owned trees are dam­aged or re­moved with­out con­sent”.

The re­port said: “There is rel­a­tively lit­tle that can be done to re­me­di­ate or rec­tify the im­pact of this level of root dam­age.

“The ex­ten­sive root dam­age caused by this en­gi­neer­ing work has po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant short term im­pli­ca­tions for one lime tree as well as long term im­pacts on the health of all but four semi-ma­ture limes. The im­pacts are not just the in­creased risk of tree fail­ure or de­cline but also sig­nif­i­cant loss in pub­lic amenity value.”

In an email to col­leagues, tree man­ager Denise Hart warned that the coun­cil would be found neg­li­gent if it failed to act and one of the trees fell.

Richard Long, head of plan­ning, said the coun­cil had enough ev­i­dence to sue the club for £200,000 for dam­ag­ing the trees, plus costs.

Se­nior es­tates sur­veyor Hay­ley Pons­ford pressed for le­gal ac­tion. She said the trees were pro­tected and the coun­cil had not given con­sent or granted plan­ning per­mis­sion for the work.

She said in an email dated May 2019: “We ap­pear to have suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to pur­sue this mat­ter fur­ther. As landowner, we will need to take ac­tion and ap­point solic­i­tors. We are lim­ited to a six-month pe­riod to pur­sue this, which be­gan in Fe­bru­ary.”

In Septem­ber 2019, af­ter that dead­line had passed, plan­ning and en­force­ment of­fi­cer Robert War­ren said the trees were not dam­aged enough to be de­stroyed so it would be a less se­ri­ous of­fence.

He said the coun­cil’s best op­tion to pur­sue the is­sue was as a civil mat­ter to “re­cover the loss of the trees and the land, plus any con­se­quen­tial risks to the sta­bil­ity of the ad­join­ing land”.

But in Novem­ber the ad­vice changed and Mr Long said the coun­cil had de­cided not to make a civil claim against the cricket club.

In a state­ment this week, Cllr Tim Ball, the cab­i­net mem­ber for hous­ing, plan­ning and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, said: “The coun­cil takes swift ac­tion against any in­cor­rect prac­tices when ap­pro­pri­ate and in the pub­lic in­ter­est to do so.

“As soon as we be­came aware of the works by Bath Cricket Club, we raised the is­sue with them about the re­quire­ment to give proper no­tice.

“Fol­low­ing tests show­ing that the trees were not suf­fi­ciently dam­aged to amount to them hav­ing been de­stroyed, we sought le­gal ad­vice which in­formed us it was not in the pub­lic in­ter­est to pur­sue a claim against Bath Cricket Club.

“As legally there was no ac­tual loss to the coun­cil, a civil claim was not needed as we can­not re­cover a cost we have not suf­fered.”

The trees were on a coun­cilowned em­bank­ment in North Pa­rade Road that the club needed to cross to ac­cess its de­vel­op­ment site.

In Jan­uary this year the author­ity agreed to sell the “ran­som strip” for £150,000 - a sum de­scribed as “less than best con­sid­er­a­tion” - af­ter be­ing told the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits would be worth £2mil­lion.

Bath Cricket Club was ap­proached for com­ment.

 ??  ?? En­gi­neer­ing works in North Pa­rade Road
En­gi­neer­ing works in North Pa­rade Road

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