Tree-felling on the site of the new primary school

Residents have expressed their dismay at the felling of numerous trees at the site of the new school and the lack of information made available to the community. Cllr Wardrop took this matter up with GCC and received the response below from Development, Property & Land Services. See our initial response to this letter (at the bottom of this page) and further updates below. We note that council officers will be available to attend our meeting on Tuesday 3rd September to respond to particular concerns. Please send concerns/questions to us in advance if possible (or leave a comment below).

In relation to your request for a programme for the tree works, please note that the tree removal works commenced on 30 July 2019 and will conclude on the 16 August 2019.

Further tree planting works will take place during the construction programme for the new school and will be complete for August 2021 when the new school opens.

We draw your attention to the various community consultation events undertaken during the scoping of the proposals for the new primary school and subsequent, statutory notifications completed as a component of the formal planning process. At no time during this process was the removal of trees hidden from view, indeed it has always been a key component of developing an appropriate facility for the education of children in this area of the city.

We note your concerns about notice not being given prior to works commencing and will ensure that communications on forthcoming activities on site are improved going forward. […]

Information relating to the details of the tree works and the survey and reporting by consultant specialists as a component of the project development and planning process is contained within publicly accessible documents at the link noted below:

The documents contained at the link above fully explain the reasons and rationale for all of the tree removal being undertaken on site.

By way of more detail on why the trees are being removed, these trees are not covered by a Tree Protection Order and are not within a conservation area. A portion of the trees are being removed as they are on the footprint of the new school, further tree removal has been advised to facilitate better woodland management and to increase the number of tree and wildlife species on the site.

As part of the design process, a Landscape Appraisal Design & Management Strategy for the development was prepared by an external landscaping consultant. They have advised the Council’s design team that the existing site hosts a mix of broadleaved groups and individual trees which provide over crowded screening to the park edges. None of the trees are considered to be in an exemplar condition due in part to this overcrowding issue.

The proposed primary education facility and accompanying external all weather sports pitch is designed to respect its urban location and invaluable mature woodland setting. The presence of a significant number of trees on site provides many benefits, particularly as the site is being developed as an education facility. Trees offer shade, shelter, habitat, screening and wind mitigation as well as offering a great deal in the way of play, educational and biodiversity. The trees around the site also have social and wellbeing benefits for residents within the neighbouring area.

In consideration of these factors, the aim has been to retain the maximum number of trees possible to create a healthy tree cover whilst balancing this with ensuring safety; a distribution which allows retained trees to reach their growth potential; and for quality and biodiversity amongst retained trees.

Additional tree planting is proposed to replace species lost and to fulfil the stated aims above. A variety of deciduous and evergreen trees is proposed, as well as fruiting and flowering trees and trees for autumn colour. Overall, a net increase in species diversity is proposed. Some shrub under planting is also proposed for soil stabilisation.

On your request for a plan of the trees affected, all information relating to the details of the tree works and the survey and reporting by consultant specialists as a component of the project development and planning process is contained within publicly accessible documents at the link noted below:

With respect of your comment regarding Forest Schools, the thinning of the trees and re-planting would not impact on the new school’s ability to deliver a Forest Schools Programme, should the staff team in the new school wish to do this. Use of the outdoors for teaching and learning is imbedded in the curriculum and will be a part of the school day and school life as a matter of course. […]

There has been engagement with the Fire Station in connection with creating the drop off area adjacent to the station and we will continue to collaborate with their representatives to achieve a suitable final arrangement.

On your request about updating the Community Council on the project and in particular, traffic safety concerns, officers from DRS will be available to attend the forthcoming North Kelvin Community Council meeting on Tuesday 3 September 2019 as you request.

If you know of any particular concerns, the officers who plan to be in attendance would benefit from being made aware of these in advance so we can provide detailed responses.

Our chair’s initial response sent to Cllr Wardrop on 18 August 2019:

15 of the trees cut down weren’t part of the consultation plans shown to the public. Indeed these are in an area that isn’t part of the new school and playing field site. Therefore the response in the Council’s letter [above], while it sounds logical as it talks about safeguarding the max number of trees etc, just doesn’t tie in with what’s happened in reality. In other words we have a disconnect with what was said to what has been carried out.

These trees are/were in the corner part of the land which takes in the corner of Queen Margaret Drive as it meets Maryhill Road (north-west). Crucially they are on the other side of the public path that cuts across from these two streets and as you can see today isn’t fenced off by the Contractor.  This area is a small grassy woodland mound/hill on the corner of the site, on the other side of the path from the new playing pitch and far away from any new buildings.  I can see no reason whatsoever that these 15 mature trees should have been cut down. Examples of tree reference numbers are:  T113 and T115.

As you know one of the points many people made at the time of the public consultation was having as much of a buffer from the traffic pollution on Queen Margaret Drive and Maryhill Road as one could get. Especially as it wasn’t just a school but also sports pitches proposed. … Therefore could you please specifically ask the Council officials why these 15 mature trees were destroyed? 

These trees do feature in one document (Ref 6745_00_00_DR_L_0002 REV B) that they should be cut down.  However that document wasn’t part of the public consultation plans shown to us/the public. Also when asked in a public meeting we held whether these trees would be cut down we were clearly told they wouldn’t be. And finally that document I refer to was uploaded to the Council Planning site on 9th August 2019 after the public consultation which closed for comments on 12th April 2019. I hope the Council aren’t uploading documents to its planning site to justify their actions retrospectively?

Update on the trees at the corner of QMD & Maryhill Rd

We now understand that the trees removed were poplars which are being taken down as a matter of policy across the city. Poplars have a habit of dropping large boughs and are frequently blown down, so from a safety aspect they’re being taken down where they’re close to public realm. While works were under way to take trees down on the school site, the contractors were asked to remove the poplars.

Cllr Wardrop received the following response from Development, Property & Land Services on 23 August in response to our concerns:

we would advise that the suite of documents contained within the publicly accessible planning information relating to Planning Application No 19/00733/FUL , on the GCC Planning Portal, contains a drawing showing tree retention and removal.

The trees, outwith the site for the new school are clearly marked for removal. A further document, the “Arboricultural Impact Assessment”, commissioned from an independent specialist, states the following:

The Site currently benefits from a selection of mixed broadleaved groups and individual trees comprising 11 different species, albeit with Fraxinus and Populus making up the bulk of the numbers. The trees are in a range of conditions with the majority being fair, a notable amount in poor condition and very few assessed as being in overall good condition.

The proposals would see the removal of 202 individual trees plus all associated understorey growth, 8 groups of a sizeable nature. These include all trees removed for purely arboricultural reasons (4 no. category U) as well as those removed to enable the regeneration of the Site. The majority of trees in this latter group are assessed as being within retention categories B and C.

Although the proposals call for significant removal of trees this is mitigated by extensive new tree and understorey planting which sees a net gain in the variety of species which has notable benefits in terms of biodiversity and long term resilience of the Site.

All of the foregoing was prepared as a requirement of the planning application process.