A public consultation has launched to find out local views on a new tree protection process, with one islander claiming that the proposition makes owning trees "a liability".
Islanders gathered at St. Brelade's Parish Hall earlier this month to discover that the proposed legislation could mean waits of up to 28 days for a decision from the planning department on whether an individual can conduct any sort of work on trees.
One attendee commented: "We've been planting trees for years and you [the government] are making trees another liability."
Dr Steve Webster — the policy development specialist who worked on the legislation and led the consultation — said: "I think the questions are sensible, straightforward; I can see where people are coming from.
"I think as people say that it's supposed to be a straightforward notification process, to protect, not to cause any undue hindrance to businesses or to unfairly prejudice people who are likely to be planting trees.
"I think I think we can probably get the balance, right, because we might need more communication. And certainly that's what people in businesses think."
Pictured: Dr Steve Webster is a regulation, strategy, policy development and implementation specialist for the agricultural, fisheries and food sectors.
Meanwhile, a tree surgeon present at the meeting stated that they receive between 30 and 40 calls a day for job requests. They stated the idea of waiting 28 days for a response from planning department on whether they can conduct work on a tree came as "a shock", adding that it is "just unrealistic."
The tree surgeon explained that the ideal response time from planning department regarding a decision would be "a day."
Dr Webster said during the meeting: "We don't want want to disrupt your business... we hope that 28 days won't be too restrictive to you."
He added: "[But] how quickly are those planning officers going to learn if they are dealing with 30 enquires a day?"
Pictured: A tree surgeon present at the meeting stated that they receive between 30 and 40 calls a day for job requests.
As part of the proposed GDO Amendment Order, following a notification related to a tree, the chief officer of the planning department must inform the applicant whether or not an application for planning permission is necessary.
The legislation would mean that if the chief officer does not make a decision within 28 days, the applicant should assume that planning permission is not required.
Attendees at last week's consultation also recognized that the proposed legislation, which follows similar laws implemented in the Isle of Man, did not make reference to the branchage.
According to the government, the branchage refers to the law which ensures that any vegetation growth that overhangs roads and footpaths is cut back.
Dr Webster said: "I'm getting the message very clearly that we need to put in guidance about that [the branchage]."
Whilst the new legislation will require permission for operations on trees, there are some exceptions including working on dead branches and trees posing a danger to the public, and any work on trees with a with a diameter no bigger than 8cm at a point 1.5m above the ground.
Pictured: Environment Minister, Deputy Jonathan Renouf.
Environment Minister, Deputy Jonathan Renouf, said: "It is clear from speaking to islanders that tree protection is an issue they hold very close to their hearts, so I am very pleased to be bringing forward these proposals.
"It is not our intention to create unnecessary red tape, and so this draft Order includes a list of permitted operations, and categories of trees for which no planning application will be necessary."
He continued: "We need to ensure we get the balance right, so that islanders can still proceed with their gardening and tree maintenance tasks, but at the other end of the spectrum trees that have landscape or other value to the community aren’t being chopped down without proper consideration."
You can provide feedback on the proposed tree protection process and exceptions at gov.je/consultations. The consultation closes on 23 April 2023.
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