I attended a local meeting the other night about a controversial development talking place in Fallowfield, home to a zillion students and a few local residents (including me!) still clinging on to their homes and sanity with the tips of their fingers. The old St John’s Ambulance site
is was a plot filled with mature trees and wildlife but when the medics moved on, the site was bought by the Watkin Jones group.
Having filmed at their developments in the past with Channel M, I though this was a good thing, they’d seemed like a nice bunch. The original development of apartments was scrapped for obvious reasons and currently planning permission is being sought for a development of 28 4 bedroomed town houses, apparently not aimed at students. Hmmm. Which families will buy a townhouse in the heart of Fallowfield next door to a pub with no amenity space factored in, no parking and tiny gardens….. The planners are considering an option that the houses can’t be rented out as HMO’s as they just won’t be suitable due to tiny rooms and undersized communal space but realistically, how enforceable will that be?
So, please note, planning hasn’t been granted. No-one really knows what is going to be built on the site. Horrific then, that this week Watkin Jones contracted workers who set about felling every single one of what was a site filled and surrounded by 16 mature trees and other less established trees too. Despite the intervention of planning officers trying to negotiate the retention of some periferally sited trees, and a verbal assurance from Jason Berry, from Watkin Jones, given to both planners and local residents that he would visit the site and suspend the activity, no such visit took place and the destruction continued. Indeed, in an act of pure vandalism, one operator, angered by the presence and arguments of planners, residents and one councillor, took his chainsaw and successfully ‘ringed’ six more mature trees, designated for felling on the W.J. Plan (as yet unapproved) and still standing up til this week.
As a developer myself, though clearly not in the same league as Watkin Jones, I understand all about the financial viability of sites, I understand that times are hard and profits aren’t easy to come by and I understand that compromises have to be made. But this is just destruction for destruction’s sake before anything has been finalised, without any agreement. It’s getting rid of all the trees so if there is any debate about what can and can’t be built, it’s too late to bring the whole ‘mature trees’ argument in. What’s the betting they say it was a breakdown in communication and the top tier management didn’t know this was happening and are appalled?!
I just heard this afternoon that the council have put an emergency Tree Preservation Order on a yew tree on the site but that little else could be saved as it’s all been done very quickly and with no notification.
None of this is really in line with some of the alleged policies on the Watkin Jones web-site, which I quote:
We will also continue to recognise our responsibility to all stakeholders, including employees, customers, subcontractors, suppliers and communities which may be impacted, either positively or negatively, by our business activities.
Watkin Jones are fully ISO 14001 accredited. We are committed to minimising the environmental impact of its development activities, and to promoting the philosophy of sustainable construction.
And the best one is….
Watkin Jones also, wherever possible, employ local suppliers and contractors and specify locally sourced materials – thus reducing transport CO2 emissions.
Mayve you wouldn’t have to worry so much about CO2 emissions if you left some trees standing, eh, Watkin Jones?
It will be very sad walking past this site now it’s almost completely bare, a crying shame. I can’t wait ’til it’s filled with some red brick town house monstrosities though, that’ll be so much nicer…..