HC Deb 14 April 1967 vol 744 cc1533-6
Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 8, line 6, at the end to insert: (d) that the place on which the tree is or trees are required to be planted is unsuitable for that purpose. It was not my pleasure to be a member of the Standing Committee which considered this Bill. I understand that in the Committee on what was then Clause 12 there was a certain amount of discussion about the reasons which lay behind an Amendment of this kind. Reading the Report of the Committee, I find that an Amendment in different terms was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and a discussion took place on it.

Here we are dealing with the obligation imposed on owners in certain circumstances to replant trees. Under what is now Clause 11 three reasons are given to an owner in those circumstances to appeal against an Order to replant. One is that the provisions of Clause 10 are not applicable. The second relates to unreasonable requirements of the notice as to the period or the size or species of the trees and the third is on the question of amenity or the practice of good forestry.

The Amendment I am moving seeks to add a fourth ground of appeal, that the site on which the trees are to be planted is unsuitable for that purpose. It was recognised in the discussion in Committee that there are only two points which have to be thought about. First there is the question of damage. This is something which, as we know only too well and too sadly, happens, or can happen, to a large extent when new estates are developed and there is a lot of house building and many children playing around the houses. Then intentional or unintentional damage is done to trees. For that reason there is much to be said for giving to an owner under an obligation to replant an opportunity for suggesting, perhaps from knowledge which may be better than that of the authority concerned, where the replanting should take place.

There are also changes and developments with which we are becoming more and more familiar in road schemes and road traffic. I have had the experience on the main road near where I live, the A.49, of a long-drawn-out dispute about two rather picturesque trees which the road authority says are unsuitable from the point of view of traffic. There has been a long argument about whether, how and when they should be replaced. This bears out the point that road developments make it important to look ahead to see what is sensible in regard to replanting trees.

When this matter was discussed in Committee under the different Amendment suggested by my hon. Friend, the Minister expressed sympathy but he asked that the Amendment should not be pressed so that there might be time for further consideration to be given to it. I move my Amendment in the hope that in the rather specific terms in which it is phrased it may be acceptable to the Government and that we may have this small but positive improvement in the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. J. E. R. Hill (Norfolk, South)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More). In general I am in strong support of this part of the Bill because I should like a great deal more attention to be paid to the replanting of trees, particularly when road widening schemes take place. Not enough thought is given to this question.

The Clause is onerous on the owners of land. Earlier in the Clause it is made clear that the planning authority could require trees of a certain size to be planted. Under modern conditions this could mean the planting of very expensive trees. It seems important that the owner should be able to argue about the place in which a tree should be planted. We are apt to think of trees as cheap, but when trying to replace a tree in a permanent position for all sorts of reasons it may be necessary to plant a tree which is comparatively large and expensive. It may not be generally known that in a catalogue one would find prices up to about £100 each. I agree that that would be an extreme case, but there is much substance in this proposal.

The next consideration is that an owner will know more about the future prospects of a certain site than anyone else. In his scheme for managing his land, be it a farm or any other area of private land, there may be certain development plans—for example, the adjustment of farm boundaries, a farm water scheme or drainage scheme—which may go very near to the place where a tree formerly stood. It might also become apparent that a particular spot is prone, either to damage inflicted by human beings, hooligans, or by some form of traffic which goes near the spot.

It would be pointless through lack of appreciation of the future possibilities to insist on the tree being planted at a certain spot. Not only would that involve the owner in probable loss, but it could deprive the public of the expectation of the life and maturity of a particular tree. I therefore hope that the sponsors of the Bill and the Government will accept this Amendment.

Mr. Blenkinsop

On behalf of the sponsors of the Bill I can say that we accept this reworded Amendment in the terms in which it is now before us. We were somewhat anxious, as were the Government at the time, about the wording initially put forward. We are anxious not to make these grounds of appeal too wide as that might endanger the wider purposes of the Bill. We accept the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) and on behalf of the sponsors I welcome it.

Mr. Skeffington

I confirm that the Government's advice is that this Amendment should be accepted. It would add another ground of appeal against default action taken by the authority.

I have reread the interesting debate which took place on 8th February when the Government, and I believe the sponsors felt that the Amendment considered then would be too wide and would nullify the main purposes of the Bill, which I do not think anyone would desire. The present Amendment seems most reasonable and practical. The Government therefore advise that it should be accepted. Amendments 63, 64 and 65, which are the application of this provision to Scotland, also seem to the Government to be wise.

Amendment agreed to.

12 noon.

Miss Harvie Anderson

I beg to move Amendment No. 63, in page 8, line 38, after 'satisfied' to insert '(i)'.

Mr. Speaker

With this Amendment I suggest that the House should also take Amendments Nos. 64 and 65.

Miss Harvie Anderson

In view of the assurance which has just been given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, I shall confine what I have to say on these Amendments to a very short compass. They are the Scottish application of Amendments already approved.

The importance of this part of the Bill is undoubted. It is, perhaps, particularly important in the central belt of Scotland, where there is fast development. I draw the Minister's attention to a practical consideration. I have heard from two reliable sources that 40 fine trees will be felled at Laurelhill in Stirling. Clearly this is a case where a preservation order should be made. Equally clearly, it is necessary for a replanting order to be made in due course if it be essential to fell, which I very much doubt. If the excuse of siting or other excuse is offered, it points to the necessity of narrowing the opportunity of default, which is the object of the Amendments recently approved and of these Amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 64, in page 8, line 41, after first 'or', insert '(ii)'.

No. 65, in line 44, after 'forestry', insert: 'or (iii) that the place on which the tree is or trees are required to be planted is unsuitable for that purpose;'.—[Miss Harvie Anderson.]