Section 26 — Tree preservation orders

Planning etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:00 am on 16th November 2006.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 11:00 am, 16th November 2006

Group 22 is on tree preservation orders. Amendment 14, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 15 and 142 to 145.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

The effect of amendments 14 and 15 will be that, in cases where the Scottish ministers grant planning permission—such as appeal cases or cases that have been called in—they will be required to ensure that adequate provision is made for the preservation or planting of trees by the imposition of conditions. Therefore, I recommend that amendments 14 and 15 be accepted.

Amendments 142 and 143 seek to alter and extend the circumstances that could trigger the making of a tree preservation order. As we said at stage 2, the bill introduces additional circumstances for making tree preservation orders, based on cultural and historical significance. That came out of consultation with a wide range of stakeholders in 2004 and 2005 and will allow, for example, for old trees, rare trees or trees that are connected with particular historical events to have special protection.

The first proposed paragraph in amendment 143 relates to the appearance of the locality, which is already covered by the principal act's existing powers on the interests of amenity. "The interests of amenity" is a long-standing term, but it is also a broad term, and we intend to provide further guidance on its interpretation in future. Although the first two subparagraphs of the second proposed paragraph in amendment 143 are covered by the new provisions in the bill on cultural and historical significance, the final subparagraph, which concerns biodiversity, is new. However, biodiversity is better protected by other policy mechanisms, such as sites of special scientific interest.

The bill's new provisions on cultural and historical significance offer new powers to protect a wider range of trees. The additional measures that Robin Harper seeks to introduce are not justified, therefore I recommend that amendment 143 be rejected.

Amendment 144 is a repeat of Robin Harper's stage 2 amendment 213, which sought to give the Scottish ministers powers to compile a register of trees of special interest and the ability to approve, with or without modifications, a register of such trees compiled by another person. Having given further thought to the proposal following the stage 2 debate, we are still of the opinion that the measures should be rejected. The bill introduces provisions that will allow tree preservation orders to be made in respect of trees, groups of trees and woodlands if it is expedient to do so in the interest of amenity and/or the trees, groups of trees or woodlands are of cultural and historical significance. Therefore, for the first time, tree preservation orders will be able to be made to preserve trees with cultural and historical merit that are not under threat. In addition, the bill introduces provisions that will make all tree preservation orders have immediate effect and allows for an emergency power for planning authorities to prohibit tree operations.

The provisions in the bill offer new opportunities to protect special trees, strengthen powers of protection and are pro-active on the protection of cultural and historical trees, therefore the case for a statutory register of trees of special interest is not justified. I recognise that having a non-statutory register may be attractive for the purposes of funding, managing or promoting trees, but that is not a matter for the bill, therefore I recommend that amendment 144 and amendment 145, which is consequential, be rejected.

I move amendment 14.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 11:15 am, 16th November 2006

Amendments 142 and 143 would add rarity value and biodiversity to the criteria for making tree preservation orders. Under the bill as amended at stage 2, a TPO can be made only if it is

"in the interests of amenity" or if

"the trees, groups of trees or woodlands are of cultural or historical significance."

Trees make a significant contribution to biodiversity in urban and rural settings. Old and ancient trees, standing or fallen, host a significant proportion of our most endangered wildlife, and they are rare organisms in their own right. The guidance contained in national planning policy guideline 14 would not protect such trees from development or felling by their owners. The use of designations such as site of special scientific interest, to which the minister referred, would incur significant bureaucracy and would be costly—a point that the Executive raised in objecting to having a register. The simplest procedure for ensuring the widespread protection of trees on the basis of rarity value or biodiversity value would be to extend the provisions of the TPO system to include biodiversity. I strongly urge the Parliament to vote for amendment 143 in the interests of biodiversity.

Amendments 144 and 145 contain a proposal to compile, maintain and update a register of trees of special interest. Listed buildings get status, so why should there not be listed trees? The trees on such a register would be exceptional. They would be notable for their great age, their important historical and cultural associations, their exceptional size or their outstanding form and character. They would be linked with local communities and would have a unique Scottish connection. They would probably number no more than a couple of hundred in Scotland. Heritage trees provide a living link with Scotland's history and culture. They are a unique, but vulnerable, part of our natural heritage.

We have lost quite a lot of trees to vandalism recently. The most important point is that the TPO system does not protect against vandalism, because it is reactive. If a tree is under threat from development, a TPO will protect it. If it is under threat from inappropriate maintenance, a TPO will protect it. However, TPOs are not proactive. They do not ensure that our ancient trees are properly cared for.

There has been cross-party support for the ideas contained in amendment 144, and there are at least five further reasons why I urge the Parliament to vote for it. To start with, it is permissive. It states:

"The Scottish Ministers may compile a register".

We took out "must" from our original draft, to which the Executive had objected. In response to Euan Robson's objection that our original draft did not allow for appeal, amendment 144 would allow for appeal. The proposal would not be costly. A register would afford trees greater protection and status. It would not duplicate the TPO system, as the Executive has argued. It would be complementary and would add to it.

Registers already operate in Europe, notably in Sweden and Poland. Sweden is spending £35 million a year on an action plan for trees with high conservation value. Poland, which has a low gross domestic product, has invested in a national list of protected trees.

I ask members to consider our proposals and to vote for them.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

I support Robin Harper's amendments 142 to 145, as I supported the equivalent amendments at stage 2. I should record that I received a special tree when we were being lobbied in the Parliament some months ago. I am happy to report that, despite my tender mercies, it is still alive.

Robin Harper makes an eloquent case. Most of us who live in urban areas particularly appreciate the trees that surround us. It is important that they are protected. In addition, we need a register of the many special trees in Scotland. The register could bring visitors to areas if they know where the trees are and can find out about their significance. I am happy to support Robin Harper's amendments.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

As I already indicated, I am not saying that there are no arguments for a non-statutory register, but we just do not think that it would be appropriate for that to be dealt with in the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill. Robin Harper said that a tree preservation order does not protect against vandalism. Self-evidently, a register would not, in itself, protect against vandalism either. In that sense, a register would not add anything to the enhanced tree preservation order powers that we are putting into the bill.

Robin Harper acknowledged that the site of special scientific interest mechanism could work. He objects to it because he feels that it is bureaucratic, but the SSSI mechanism is no more bureaucratic than what he proposes.

We all support the objectives that Robin Harper has outlined, but we think that the measures that we have put into the bill, complemented by Executive amendments 14 and 15, will serve to achieve them.

Amendment 14 agreed to.

Amendment 15 moved—[Malcolm Chisholm]—and agreed to.

Amendment 142 moved—[Robin Harper].

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 142 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 17

For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fox, Colin, Gibson, Rob, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 37, Against 70, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 142 disagreed to.

Amendment 143 not moved.

Amendment 144 moved—[Robin Harper].

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 144 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 18

For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fox, Colin, Gibson, Rob, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, McFee, Mr Bruce, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 37, Against 72, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 144 disagreed to.

Amendment 145 not moved.