Plans for a five-bedroom house on a tree covered site approved by councillors

The house is planned for an empty plot next to a property known as Hillside, in Ovingdean Road, Brighton
The house is planned for an empty plot next to a property known as Hillside, in Ovingdean Road, Brighton

Councillors approved detailed plans for a five-bedroom house on a tree covered site,

The house is planned for an empty plot next to a property known as Hillside, in Ovingdean Road, Brighton.

But it faced objections from Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh and the Ovingdean Preservation Society, who raised concerns about protected trees on the land.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee members deferred the application in October to receive more information about the trees.

Since then, planning officials, landowner Bulent Ekinci’s agent Umut Kilic and the council’s tree officer Paul Davey have visited the site.

Mr Ekinci, 48, has since submitted more detailed proposals, in the name of his company Black Homes, for the two-storey house on the empty plot along with revised landscaping plans.

Outline planning permission was granted in December 2019 and the planning committee was told that the detailed plans complied with the dimensions that had been agreed.

Cllr Fishleigh asked whether committee members had attended the site visit. She was told that only officials went along.

She said: “No trees with TPOs (tree preservation orders) were removed, but they have been damaged, and damaging trees with TPOs on them is a criminal offence.

“The law states that people cannot benefit financially from their crimes so if you grant planning permission today, then the value of the land will increase, and the applicant will benefit financially from his criminal behaviour.”

Cllr Fishleigh reminded the committee that she had put a motion to the council in December to enhance protections for trees with preservation orders. This included management and maintenance schemes. But the motion, she said, was “watered down”.

Ovingdean Preservation Society committee member Pam Wright, who lives near the site, said that residents were concerned about the application because the site was on a blind bend and risky for traffic.

She said: “In making their assessments, did traffic officers consider the potential speed of the traffic and the number of houses and riders and pedestrians, including school children using the road?

“It is deeply regrettable that so many trees are proposed to be felled to make way for this development. The new trees planted will take at least 20 years to reach the level of maturity of the sycamores that are to be removed.”

Independent tree consultant Greg Sweeney spoke in support of the application, having carried out the initial tree survey and produced the structural tree planting plan and landscaping scheme.

He said that there was no unlawful felling or cutting of trees and said that this had been confirmed at a meeting at the site in October.

Mr Sweeney said: “None of the cut trees were covered by a tree preservation order. Therefore no unlawful criminal behaviour has been conducted.

“Any tree works conducted on this site to date should not cloud considerations or judgment.”

Fourteen trees would be removed because of excavation work on the site, councillors were told, along with “two groups”. Four trees had already been removed.

The eight sycamores listed in the TPO will be removed as part of the agreed outline permission, as four are in the access way and four are within the building’s footprint.

Conservative councillor Carol Theobald, who used to live in the area, was the only committee member to vote against the application.

She said: “I do know the site. On the top of that hill, it is so dangerous for anyone to get in and out with a car. There’s no cycle lane provided.

“It’s such a shame for this area which is so near the South Downs National Park. It would ruin the view there. It’s just the wrong place and too big.”

Green councillor Leo Littman, who chairs the planning committee, said that the building complies with the outline planning permission for a two-storey building of 250 square metres and could not be “legally refused” based on size.