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Housing plans for former school site return to committee because of oak tree

Plans to build 58 new homes on the site of a former Rugeley school have returned to councillors for consideration after it emerged that a beloved oak tree on the site is facing the chop.


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Members of Cannock Chase Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the plans for the redevelopment of the former Aelfgar School site at their meeting last month.

Concerns had been raised by nearby residents about the loss of trees on the site. One said: “I realise people need somewhere to live and building houses is necessary, but not at the expense of trees that have been there for years.

“One is an oak tree that has been there for years. There is an abundance of wildlife making use of the trees and there are bats in the area.”

Councillors were told at last month’s meeting that the oak tree was set to be retained.

But on Wednesday (July 3) they heard that this information was incorrect and the tree was set to make way for the development.

In a statement read out at the meeting Councillor Olivia Lyons, who represents the Western Springs ward, said the oak tree had stood on the site for many years and was appreciated by residents.

She added: “I believe it offers great benefit to the local ecosystem.

“I’m keen to see progress on the site as it has been empty for a considerable period of time and I welcome housing for local families. However we must ensure the concerns of residents are considered.”

The committee was told that the trees set to be removed on the site were considered “poor quality” with a life expectancy of less than 10 years.

It would not be possible to retain the oak and remove the others because it shared a root system with other trees.

A report to the committee said: “Whilst the loss of some trees is regrettable, only three protected trees are to be removed to facilitate the proposal.

"As part of the soft landscaping to be provided, compensatory planting is proposed across the site to mitigate the loss of on-site trees, comprising a scheme of 47 new trees to mitigate the loss of 22 individual trees and one grouping of trees.

“The scheme includes an oak tree, of which is to be planted within the green buffer close to its original location.

"The recommendation to approve is still relevant as the wider benefits of the development scheme, including the provision of 29 affordable dwellings on a brownfield site within a sustainable location, outweigh the loss of an unprotected and low-quality tree.”

Aelfgar School closed in 2011 and has since been demolished. Cannock Chase Council bought the site from Staffordshire County Council in September 2021 and it is now earmarked for housing, along with land from former squash courts and Taylors Lane Car Park.

A mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes is proposed. Half will be available for sale, with the remaining 19 retained by the council as housing stock.

Councillors once again voted to approve the application on Wednesday. Councillor Sue Thornley said that she was sad when trees had to be felled, but the development would enable 29 families to come off the housing waiting list.

Councillor Darrell Mawle said: “This is a difficult one. We have got to think that branches of the tree we are looking at could start falling off and it could die.

“Nobody wants to fell trees necessarily. But if we keep it in place we have got to keep all the other trees in place.

“At the moment the oak tree is the only thing holding back the whole thing. We are getting a new tree in place within the next year that we will be able to see for a long period after that.”

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