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Sunderland trees given protected status despite Gentoo and housebuilder objections

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A row over trees was settled when city leaders agreed to grant protected status.

Sunderland City Council had attempted to place a tree preservation order (TPO) on land in East Herrington ‘in direct response to development interest’.

Directors from social housing provider Gentoo and house builder Hillcrest Homes both objected to the plan to safeguard the four trees on the site in Cranborne, East Herrington.

But the council’s Planning and Highways Committee agreed with assessments they made a ‘significant positive contribution’ to the area and could do so for a ‘significant period of time’.

Councillors unanimously voted to back the TPO at the meeting, which was also attended by four members of the public who have campaigned for the measure.

No representatives from Hillcrest or Gentoo were present.

Before the panel began hearing evidence, Coun Stuart Porthouse revealed he had helped organise a meeting between Gentoo and families living in the area to hand over a 400-signature petition requesting the land be left undeveloped.

He added: “At the time I’m not sure what happened, but several months ago I approached officers to ask about progress on the TPO because we had heard rumblings about possible development going on there.”

According to a report prepared for councillors, Gentoo, the site’s owner, had been negotiating with Hillcrest to sell the land for development.

Among the objections to the TPO were complaints such an order would render the site ‘useless for potential development’.

But council officers countered this could not be taken into account unless a planning application had been submitted.

The TPO does not prevent the trees being cut down or the land developed, but it would count as an extra consideration in any subsequent planning application.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service