Another little green space killed off by city’s planners

A letter to the editor of the South Wales Echo, published on 29 March 2019

Recently, the Cardiff Council Planning Committee narrowly approved an application to develop the Suffolk House site on the junction between Romilly and Llandaff Roads which will involve the felling of a number of mature trees. This will change the whole character of the Conservation Area.

They did this despite the arguments of their more enlightened members and the impassioned pleas of Councillors Patel and Cunnah who have supported a large number of local residents in their desire that this development be in harmony with the environment rather than to gain short-term profit for the few in place of a cleaner happier life for all.

Another opportunity to keep our city green has been squandered in direct opposition to the city’s stated position on sustainability and environmental protection. Again, the thin end of the planning wedge has been driven into another of Cardiff’s little green spaces.

Each short-sighted decision like this may seem local and trivial to people outside the area, but together they are a crucial loss to the viability of our home city and betray a dangerously outdated state of mind.

Those who supported this decision need to consider their position on the slippery slope.

Peter Morgan

Canton, Cardiff


One step closer to a silent spring

This letter was published in the South Wales Echo on 26 March 2019

March 20 was the first day of spring. It was a chance for people to consider the valuable role nature plays in our lives, including bird song in our city trees.

Unfortunately, councillors on the city’s planning committee chose this date to approve the destructions of beautiful mature trees on the Suffolk House site in Canton, Cardiff, even though they are in a conservation area. Thanks to the votes of Councillors Iona Gordon, Frank Jackson, Keith Jones and Chris Lay we are one step closer to a “silent spring” where bird song can no longer he heard in our nation’s capital.

It seems that the common good is not a concern for some councillors. They prefer to blindly follow the advice of clever-clever planning officials and the demands of property speculators.

They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Rob Cooper, Joy Lock, Elen Miles, Ceri Williams


Redevelopment plans for Cardiff listed building approved despite fears over loss of trees

Suffolk House in Canton has squatters living there, councillors have been told

By Matt Discombe, Local Democracy Reporter, South Wales Echo

This article was published in the South Wales Echo and Wales Online on 22 March 2019 (see link above).  It highlights the importance of local journalism in holding powerful councillors to account.  Please buy and read the Echo and Western Mail everyday!

Redevelopment plans for a listed building in Cardiff have been passed despite concerns over the loss of mature trees.

Suffolk House in Canton will be turned into 17 new homes – including seven townhouses and 10 apartments in the main building.

Plans for the three-storey building, which was sold by Cardiff Council in 2017, involve the demolition of Suffolk House’s modern extensions and the felling of some mature trees on the site – with smaller trees replacing them.

Concerns were raised about the felling of the healthy trees, which is in a conservation area, at a meeting of Cardiff Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, March 20.

In February, the plans were put on hold due to concerns raised about the loss of trees and impact on the conservation area.

Concerns were also raised about the height of the proposed buildings and the level of developer’s contributions to community infrastructure being reduced from more than £330,957 to £49,095.

But the committee narrowly voted to approve the plans, which also involve the replacement of a damaged wall.

Ed Baker, Cardiff Council tree officer, told the committee three of the trees on the site due to be felled – a copper beech and two lime trees – were directly impacting on the wall.

He said 12 younger trees were proposed on the site in their place, which would make the trees on the site more diverse and “they should be able to make a good long-term contribution to the character of the conservation area”.

But Councillor Mike Jones-Pritchard, who voted against the plans, said: “Those trees in that location, and the impact they have, I feel are irreplaceable.”

Councillor Sean Driscoll, who also voted against the plan, said: “It’s not the trees that are the problem, it’s the wall. I’m sure we can find an engineering solution to address that.”

Mr Baker said any work to the wall could impact on the trees.

Suffolk House is currently in a poor condition and squatters have been living there, councillors heard.

Councillor Iona Gordon said: “I see this beautiful house falling into complete disrepair. It’s dreadful. The windows are broken in, there are people squatting in there.”

Four councillors voted to refuse the plans, while four voted against the refusal while another abstained. The motion to reject the plans was defeated after the committee’s chairman, Councillor Keith Jones, cast the deciding vote.

In a follow-up vote, the committee voted six to three in favour of granting the application.


Conserve city’s trees and fight air pollution

This letter was published in the Western Mail on 20 March 2019.  Later that day Cllor Iona Gordon changed her mind and voted against saving the trees, which was led directly to the developers plans being approved.

Dear Sir,

We must do more to protect our city trees, which play a vital role in tackling the air pollution which can lead to 2,000 deaths per year in Wales.

That’s why it was such good news that principled councillors on Cardiff’s planning committee decided to save precious mature trees in a conservation area at Suffolk House, Canton, from the developer’s axe.

We look forward with optimism to today’s planning meeting, where this decision is set to be confirmed, thus boosting our nation’s capital’s proud reputation as a green city.

Rob Cooper, Eirianedd Evans, Joy Lock, Elen Miles, Diana Morgan, Peter Morgan, Ceri Williams


Plans to redevelop Cardiff listed building on hold over loss of trees concern

Plans to redevelop a listed building in Cardiff have been put on hold after concerns were raised about trees.

By Matt Discombe, Local Democracy Reporter, South Wales Echo

This article was published in the South Wales Echo and Wales Online on 18 Feb 2019 (see link above).  Please support your local newspaper!  They are the bedrock of democracy.

Plans to redevelop a listed building in Cardiff have been put on hold after concerns were raised about trees.

The three-storey Suffolk House in Canton, which was sold by the council in 2017, was set to be turned into 17 new homes – including seven new townhouses and 10 apartments in the main building.

Plans to redevelop the site include the demolition of Suffolk House’s modern extensions and the felling of some mature trees on the site – with smaller trees replacing them.

But Cardiff council’s Planning Committee deferred the plans on Wednesday February 13 after concerns that mature trees would be felled in place of the development which would be in a conservation area.

One councillor said the plans would give the impression the council is “willing to sell off our city on the cheap” after the developer’s contributions to community infrastructure was reduced from more than £330,957 to £49,095.

Other concerns included the height of the proposed buildings and the number of parking spaces planned – 18 had been planned for the 17 homes.

Council officers had recommended that the committee approved the application but it will now be heard again in March.

Councillor Ramesh Patel, objecting to the development, said: “I see this development as overbearing because this development will be three storeys high – they may be the same height as the properties on Romilly Road but completely overbearing on the properties on Greenfield Avenue which are two storeys high.

“This development will also have a major impact on the already difficult parking problems we have in the area, the visitors to this new development will only add extra pressure to the very limited spaces that are available in the area.

“These recommendations will indicate to all future developers that we are willing to sell off our city on the cheap because by reducing the section 106 agreements to this ridiculously low figure from £330,957 to £49,095 is something I’ve never come across in my 18 years as a councillor.”

A petition signed by 389 people opposed the plans.

Petitioner Miranda Dettwyler told the meeting: “Many homes own two cars. Even if everyone who lives there only has one car that only leaves one space for visitors.

“People feel very strongly that we need to hold onto these trees as strongly as possible.

“If you cut down those trees and replace them with saplings there’s a high chance the air will become quite polluted there.”

Planning officers told the committee that the contributions were reduced as the number of townhouses had been dropped from eight in the original plans, and following a viability assessment on the development.

Councillors were told the number of parking spaces were in line with the council’s supplementary planning guidance.

And Ed Baker, Cardiff council tree officer, told the committee that the development would have meant a good range of ages of trees on the site. He said the new trees would have been of established size.

John Pinn, for applicant Quin & Co Ltd, told the committee he has worked with council officers to design a “high quality, sensitive development” and the replacement trees would not be saplings.

He said: “The trees are being removed because it’s absolutely necessary. They are too large for the site. We’re retaining trees where possible on Romilly Road.”

But councillor Mike Jones-Pritchard, who moved a deferral which was passed four votes to three by the committee, said: “Those trees along that road have a massive impact on that area.”

Councillor Lyn Hudson said: “It’s a shame to get rid of the trees. They preserve the character of the area and add to the air quality.

“At the moment the air quality is not a problem because of the trees. It does form a barrier.

“The smaller trees that are envisaged wouldn’t preserve the character and wouldn’t add very much to improving the air quality.”



Members of Cardiff council’s planning committee will decide the fate of the trees this Wednesday (13 February).  In a report to the committee the tree officer raised no objections to the proposals of greedy develoopers Quin and Co to fell the trees and wrote:

Under the current iteration, a total of x12 new trees will be planted comprising x2 of ultimately spreading form (Ostrya carpinifolia, Tilia tomentosa ‘Brabant’) x3 of naturally fastigiated form (Acer lobelii), x4 fastigiated cultivars (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’, Fagus orientalis ‘Iskander’) and x3 upright trees (Ginkgo biloba ‘Magyar’, Malus trilobata). Of these, the Fagus, Ostrya, Tilia and Ginkgo are best described as large trees and the Acer, Liquidambar and Malus as medium-large, and taken with the existing retained trees (holm oak, weeping lime and Lawson’s cypress), the tree-scape will be diverse in terms of species and form.

In terms of numbers and diversity the proposed planting more than offsets the loss and therefore could reasonably be considered to enhance the character of the Conservation Area. What the planting does not do is preserve the character of the Conservation Area as it is currently defined by the spreading beech and lime on the Romilly Road frontage. However, the style of planting is well-suited to the dwellings proposed, and the combined impact in terms of the trees proposed and the retained trees adds up to the same or greater in terms of overall ultimate canopy cover. A line of fastigiated trees set back from the boundary in sufficient root available soil should thrive without conflicting with the dwellings or boundary wall, and will have been designed at the same time as the dwellings, whereas the current tree-scape seems to have no clear, harmonious relationship with the existing built form, both elements functioning separately rather than as a whole.

The anonymous author of the reports makes the following claim:

Taking the above into consideration and when considering that the proposal seeks to bring a vacant locally listed villa, which is in a poor state or repair, back into beneficial use, the removal of the trees, is on balance, considered acceptable, subject to the replacement landscaping provisions proposed.

Local resident Ceri Williams said:

“It is disgraceful that a so-called ‘tree officer’ should recommend the destruction of over 15 mature trees in a conservation area.  I have every faith that the members of the planning committee will over turn this appalling recommendation.”

The planning committee will take its decision at 10.30am in County Hall, Cardiff on Wednesday 13 February.  Concerned members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Save Suffolk House meeting

2pm, Sunday 13 January, Thompson’s Park, Romilly Road, Canton

Quin & Co builders plan to cut down the beautiful trees at Suffolk House on the junction of Romilly and Llandaf Roads in Canton.

Come to hear from Councillor Ramesh Patel about our plans to object to these proposals.

Show your support and help protect your local environment!