A CONTROVERSIAL application to build five houses in a flood-torn area of Solihull has been approved despite ‘Lord of the Rings’ scale tree felling.
The destruction of wildlife committed by developers Green Villa Homes before an application was lodged prompted condemnation from councillors and outrage from residents.
But officers maintained no planning rules had been broken by the developers, which led some councillors to question the rules’ legitimacy.
Solihull council’s planning committee met on Wednesday (September 5) to discuss the application for 85 Birchy Leasowes Lane, Dickens Heath.
The plans will see the demolition of one house to build five detached three-storey homes.
The development, including a new driveway, will stretch to the rear of properties and gardens in Birchy Leasowes Lane and bungalows in Birchy Close.
Dickens Heath Residents Association, parish council and 23 residents formally opposed the development.
A main concern was the lack of evidence provided by the applicants regarding drainage and considerable flooding concerns.
Dickens Heath and the road itself endured massive flooding when a month’s worth of rain fell in just an hour in May.
Solihull council has commissioned a full-scale investigation into the floods, which many councillors argued should be considered before any planning approval.
Resident Rebecca Hadley claimed the proposed three-storey houses would ‘loom’ over her garden and ‘dominate’ her view.
She added: “I am concerned about the further destruction to the trees and the habitat for wildlife.
“And the development will put further pressure on the drainage in the area. Even with a light fall of rain my garden becomes like a rice paddy field
“This isn’t about building houses for the council’s shortfall, it is about making money.
“We need to start setting precedents to save local areas and green space.”
Gayle Collins from Green Villa Homes told the planning committee the trees felled were of ‘no particular merit’ and claimed the development would provide much-needed housing for the borough.
Blythe councillor Ken Hawkins said he had never been so angry about a so-called ‘garden grabbing’ application.
He told the meeting: “The developer destroyed scores of mature trees – some about 100 years old.
“The site resembled a scene in Lord of the Rings when the orcs destroyed the trees in Middle Earth. It is shameful.
“We are yet to receive a detailed report on the causing of the floods in Dickens Heath – dozens of houses were flooded a stones throw away from this property.
“We need to stand firm and say a categorical ‘no’ to applications such as these.”
Committee members were reluctant to defer a decision as they said they would lose control over the application.
Councillors feared national guidance meant they only had limited time to decide on the planning application.
It was passed by six votes to three.