FEWER trees on private land will be at risk of removal under revised development controls, which are open for public feedback.
The Tree Management Development Control Plan, or tree DCP, was slammed by critics for paving the way for an inner west "tree massacre". But the revised plan would amend some of the DCP's most controversial elements - including a rule which granted automatic approval for removals of trees on private property within two metres of homes and garages.
Council staff estimate that 915 mature trees were removed in the first year of the policy which came into effect in February of 2020. This was more than double the 373 trees removed in 2019. Under the revised DCP, trees located within one metre of the foundation wall of residential dwellings on the same lot of land would not require council consent to remove. Other major revisions include changing the definition of "tree" to include vegetation of up to four metres, rather than six, and slashing the list of tree species which can be removed without consent.
Greens councillor Marghanita Da Cruz, who has seen the DCP through its various iterations, thinks the changes are a good start but might not go far enough. "The council officers originally recommended 0.5 metres, so even the one-metre distance is probably too much. How trees grow hasn't changed since that recommendation in 2019, so the radius probably could be lower, especially if we're talking about four-metre trees."
In August 2019, it was proposed that conditions for tree removal on private land be made more lenient so residents could remove trees within three metres of their homes, without council approval. But critics said, given the area's dense population, that would leave almost every tree on private land vulnerable to removal. The DCP was revised to reduce that distance to two metres and was officially adopted in February 2020 with the support of Liberal and Labor councillors.
The revised DCP comes after widespread controversy around the number of trees being removed and a report tabled in council last October which noted legal issues with the current DCP.
The automatic approval process for the removal of trees within two metres of a dwelling was found to be inconsistent with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act which requires council to have discretion over applications. And the DCP's allowance for trees to be removed in heritage-protected properties without consent was found to be inconsistent with the NSW Vegetation State Environmental Planning Policies.
"This council is firmly committed to increasing our urban tree canopy coverage," said Labor councillor Chloe Smith.
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