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Norwich School plans rejected as councillors refuse to allow trees to be chopped down

PUBLISHED: 16:59 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:27 12 July 2019

Trees at the Norwich School which would have been felled if a new dining hall had been given planning permission. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

Trees at the Norwich School which would have been felled if a new dining hall had been given planning permission. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

Dan Grimmer

An independent school's bid for a new dining hall has been rejected - because councillors were not prepared to see 12 trees cut down to make way for it.

Norwich School had submitted plans for new facilities and landscaping at its site in the Cathedral's Upper Close. Picture: Norwich SchoolNorwich School had submitted plans for new facilities and landscaping at its site in the Cathedral's Upper Close. Picture: Norwich School

The Norwich School had sought permission from Norwich City Council for a new dining room, kitchen block and teaching facilities at its Upper Close site at Norwich Cathedral.

But City Hall's own tree officer, landscape architect and natural areas officer had objected, because a dozen trees would have to be felled.

One of the trees, a 35 metre London Plane is estimated to be between 150 and 200 years old and protected by a tree preservation order.

To mitigate for the loss of the trees, the school was prepared to plant 13 new ones on site, along with 688 trees and 126 hedging plants on sites it owns in Horsford and at its Redmayne playing fields, off North Walsham Road.

Trees at the Norwich School would have been felled if a new dining hall had been given planning permission. Pic: Dan Grimmer.Trees at the Norwich School would have been felled if a new dining hall had been given planning permission. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

The council's landscape architect Zoe Tebbutt had objected, saying: "Given the remoteness of the planting from the city centre and the limited environmental public benefit to the city and the street scene, it is not considered to directly account for the loss of an important tree and group within the city centre."

Steffan Griffiths, the Norwich School's headmaster, had told the planning committee the new facilities were a "golden opportunity for Norwich", with plans to use the buildings for the community.

Planning officers had recommended approval, saying the benefits outweighed the harm.

They said attempts had been made by the school to come up with alternatives to chopping down the trees, but constraints on the site made it impossible.

Norwich School had submitted plans for new facilities and landscaping at its site in the Cathedral's Upper Close. Picture: Norwich SchoolNorwich School had submitted plans for new facilities and landscaping at its site in the Cathedral's Upper Close. Picture: Norwich School

But members of the planning committee today voted, by six votes to five, to reject the Norwich School's proposal - because losing the trees was against the council's own policies.

Green Sandra Bogelein, who voted to reject the plans, said: "We do have our policies for a reason and o don't think this justifies cutting down the trees."

Committee chairman, Labour's Keith Driver, who voted in favour of the plans, disagreed.

While he said the London Plane was "fantastic", he said the loss of them would open up views of the cathedral and the school and wider community would benefit from the new facilities.

Steffan Griffiths, headmaster of Norwich School. Photo: Autumn Lewis.Steffan Griffiths, headmaster of Norwich School. Photo: Autumn Lewis.

But Labour colleague Ian Stutely, who voted for rejection, said: "I think all the benefits could be achieved without losing these trees."

Green Paul Neale said losing the London Plane and planting new trees would be comparable to demolishing Norwich Cathedral and replacing it with a parish church.

Afterwards, the school said: "Norwich School and our partners in the community are obviously disappointed with the committee's decision. We will now take some time to review our next steps."

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