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London church refused permission to fell tree in its grounds

29 April 2022

Neighbours complained that cutting it down would spoil their view

WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL

The bay tree at St Gabriel’s, Pimlico, on 8 April

The bay tree at St Gabriel’s, Pimlico, on 8 April

A CHURCH has been refused permission to fell a tree, which, it says, is threatening its boundary wall, after neighbours complained that cutting it down would spoil their view.

The PCC of the Grade II* listed St Gabriel’s, Pimlico, in Westminster, wanted to remove the 30-foot-tall bay tree, but officials of Westminster City Council decided that it was an important feature of the conservation area, and imposed a tree preservation order.

An arboriculturist for St Gabriel’s, Simon Price, said that the amenity value of the tree did not outweigh the problems associated with the damage caused to the wall, which couldn’t be repaired properly with the tree in situ; also, the tree could be replaced with another in the grounds, and its removal would improve views of the church.

In a report to the council’s planning sub-committee, however, its arboricultural officer said that the tree had high amenity value, and made a positive contribution to the Pimlico conservation area. Although the tree trunk was close to the wall, no repairs were currently necessary. Its removal was not justified on the basis of potential future damage to the wall.

Five neighbours supported the preservation order. One, Ingrid Sternby, said: “We’ve lived across from St Gabriel’s Church and this very lovely and special tree for more than ten years. Our children enjoy the nature and, like many of our neighbours and other locals, enjoy this large evergreen tree very, very much. It provides good habitats for birds and other wildlife.”

Another resident described the possible removal as “unthinkable”, and said that it would have “extremely poor implications on the unique character of the conservation area”.

A spokesman for St Gabriel’s said: “When essential building works on the church are under way, we always comply fully with local-authority rules and regulations, and that naturally includes seeking the local authority’s views before carrying out work which may affect trees in the churchyard. We shall, of course, comply with the preservation order, and ensure that any works do not affect the tree concerned.”

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