A dumbfounded developer is hoping planners at the City of Swan will reconsider forcing him to cut down a large healthy tree on a street verge and then plant another tree on the same verge five metres away from the tree he has been ordered to cull.
Quadra Construction owner Bob Fisher said he contacted Echo News in a last ditch attempt to save the tree.
He said he was happy to keep the mature tree and plant another tree on the same verge at 55 Hooley Rd in Midland because it was big enough to accommodate two trees.
“Pulling out street trees is really unnecessary and pure vandalism,” he said.
“Surely we need to protect our tree-lined streets, with mature and well-shaped trees that add a certain characteristic to the neighbourhood.”
Mr Fisher said the removal of the tree was part of the original Development Approval (DA), however this condition was never discussed at the planning application stage, and was added by the planning staff without notice.
He said for many months he argued this tree should remain, and he also submitted an application to revise the DA to have the removal of this tree deleted from the conditions.
But Mr Fisher said he did not get a response to this application.
A perplexed Mr Fisher said the city’s arguments to cut down the tree were nonsensical.
“Their only concerns are the likelihood of the trees root system breaking the concrete footpaths and street cross-overs that we have recently laid,” he said.
“I very much doubt a 60-year-old tree would still have an active root system, the tree is completely established.
“The council were also concerned dropping branches would be a hazard to pedestrians – this seems to be a weak excuse.”
Nevertheless, Mr Fisher told Echo News he offered to make the body corporate responsible for any damage to the council’s assets, and any liability against the general public.
“I suggested that the strata insurance would accommodate these risks, and pay any repair costs and damage to persons or property but this idea was not accepted by the planning officer.”
Mr Fisher said he did agree to cut down the tree last week but only because he felt he had no choice.
“I am under pressure to resolve this tree issue as the planners will not release my strata application unless this tree is removed,” he said.
“Eighty per cent of the apartments in this development are sold and the purchasers are becoming impatient to take possession.
“Unless the city relaxes its position with this street tree, I will be forced to cut it down.”
In an email this week, Mr Fisher said he regretted advising the city he would remove the tree, a decision he said he made whilst under an amount of stress.
“I now retract that comment, and reiterate that I do not want the tree removed,” he said.
Long-term Hooley Rd residents told Echo News years ago the city had spent time and money planting trees on Hooley Rd that did not survive, and they did want more trees on the verges.
City chief executive officer Mike Foley said the city had been in regular contact with Mr Fisher over this issue.
Mr Foley said due to the location (cross over) of the development, the tree would have been compromised and eventually have to be removed.
“That is why the condition was added to the development application, to ensure the removal and replacement of the tree was borne by the developer and not the rate payer,” he said.
“While the city is careful to avoid the unnecessary removal of trees, the city made the decision to accept this loss in order to facilitate Mr Fisher’s development.
“If the crossover did not exist then the tree removal would not be required.”
Mr Foley rejected claims the removal of the tree was the issue holding up Mr Fisher’s strata approval.
“The issue holding up Mr Fisher’s strata approval is related to the amalgamation of the two lots he proposes to build on,” he said.
“The built strata application will be signed off subject to the conditions being met.”
City of Swan Deputy Mayor David Lucas, who inspected the Hooley Rd verge this week said he was happy to move a motion at the council meeting next week to help Mr Fisher save the tree.
“If he’s prepared to pay an amount of money to cover the future cost of removal or fixing up of any damage the tree causes over the next 25 years then I’m sure council will move that way,” he said.
“If after 25 years the tree is still happily living then that money will go into the upgrading of Hooley Rd street scape.”
Cr Lucas said the city’s ward councillors were always available and often issues could be resolved more easily if residents called on their help.
He said giving councillors enough information so they could research an issue would help council to make a proper and informed decision.
“Often officers have one point of view but it’s the council at the end of the day that makes the final decision.”