By Gary Carter
TAMESIDE Council has been ordered to check whether any protected trees on a site being developed for housing have been retained – after work started to dig up the site.
The authority was referred to the Local Government Ombudsman after the area next to the Churchfields estate in Millbrook was cleared.
Now the Correspondent has learned the council has been told to visit the site and make sure trees mentioned in a report have been kept.
However, diggers have moved in already and begun excavating the area as pipes are laid ready for the building of 29 new homes.
The council has to answer claims it did not reveal which trees would be cut down before the area will be transformed into housing.
The Local Government Ombudsman is investigating complaints after several were felled and they have to determine whether they were done illegally.
Jane Slater, who lives next to Stayley Cricket Club, complained to the LGO after the work was done without warning.
Now in this latest stage of the investigation, it is up to the council to determine whether trees subject to protection orders have been kept or not.
Once that is determined, a decision on whether Tameside is guilty of any wrongdoing is expected fairly soon.
In a letter from the LGO to Tameside, it detailed the complaint, stating: “Mrs Slater says the public was not informed that it was the developer’s intention to remove all the trees before planning permission was granted.
“She says that, if she had known that this was the plan, then she would have strongly objected to it.
“She therefore feels the proper consultation process was not followed as the possible loss or effect on trees is a material planning consideration.
“She says she tried to obtain confirmation from the council before the planning permission was granted about which trees were to be removed and retained but the council did not provide the information.”
If the LGO decides Tameside was at fault, it may uphold the complaint and recommend how they should put things right or uphold only part of the complaint.
If it finds against Tameside Council, it can force them to make an apology, reconsider a decision, make a payment or tell it to improve its procedures so similar problems do not happen again.
Whatever happens, Mrs Slater will not calm her feelings towards the authority.
She said: “Many people feel the way they have handled the application is underhand.
“I made Tameside aware I was going to take it to the LGO after dealing with them for about two years and getting nowhere if they didn’t give me a satisfactory answer.
“They’ve tried to slip it through without us noticing. We have been seen as an annoyance more than anything.
“I made representations against it on the planning form and I don’t believe Tameside have taken any notice.
“The fact they allowed building in that area is bad enough, now every last tree has been taken away. It’s just not on.”