Clifton Moor trees: application to fell

Ring road on the left, retail park on the right, handsome trees in between

Ring road on the left, retail park on the right, handsome trees in between

In which your correspondent heroically cycles over to the furthest reaches of Clifton Moor, to investigate the Clifton Moor trees under threat

Most weeks I check the planning applications recently validated, via the weekly/monthly list search option on the council’s ‘planning access’ pages. Some weeks I don’t get around to it and miss things. I didn’t get around to it last week, but the Press has drawn attention to one of the applications just submitted, a rather surprising request to fell a large number of trees at the edge of the Clifton Moor retail park, because they’re obscuring the view of the shops.

The application can be found on this link:

16/01342/TPO |Fell 103no. trees protected by Tree Preservation Order no.: CYC344 | Clifton Moor Centre Stirling Road York

Though 103 trees is a lot, it is only part of the ‘tree offer’ next to Clifton Moor’s ‘retail offer’. There are a lot of trees on the boundary, the very long boundaries of this massive place, once large enough to contain an airfield. Now it’s a sprawl of shops, out here on its northern part, nearest the ring road. The application relates to a particular section of tree planting, near to Matalan, Iceland, Dunelm, etc. See the ‘Further information’ below for links to the plans.

A letter accompanying the planning application (PDF) contains this sentence:

In considering the application it is important to recognise that the original landscape scheme was designed to be low key and to be maintained at a low level to enable customers to enjoy views of the retail units.

Views like this:

Matalan, Clifton Moor

Matalan, Clifton Moor

Cycling out to see the trees

I know from previous excursions that Clifton Moor retail park is a horribly unfriendly place to any visitor not in a car. I’ve tried to navigate it a couple of times by bike (with bits of walking when I came across frightening roundabouts and decided to dismount) and I have to say that it’s probably the most cyclist-unfriendly and pedestrian-unfriendly place I’ve visited in my wanderings/cycling around York.

So I hoped I could illustrate this piece with images from Google Street View, and not have to visit it.

But, that proved inadequate. So, dear readers, I went the extra mile (or several), gathered all my courage and fortitude, and set off on Old Bikey, up the pothole-filled roads of outer York, towards the outer fringes of the retail park, to bring you the photos on this page of the actual trees under threat.

The photos were all taken yesterday, as I dodged the cars on a Clifton Moor retail park access road, unprotected by pavement or cycle lane, while the ring road traffic whizzed by on the other side of the trees. I don’t want a medal but please feel free to express appreciation for my ongoing endeavors in citizen journalism in a supportive financial way, should this page inspire you.

Studying the threatened trees

Retail park on the left, ring road on the right

Retail park on the left, ring road on the right, threatened trees in between

Perhaps many readers will have admired these trees while sitting in traffic on the ring road. Or perhaps not. We tend to take trees for granted until they’re under threat of being felled, or, as is more usual, until we see them being felled, having not realised they were going to be. Anyway, let’s appreciate them now.

Some of these trees are thick-trunked and have interesting bark

Some of these trees are thick-trunked and have interesting bark

They’re a mix of species, some of them with thick trunks and interesting bark, and they’re all looking robust and healthy. They’re not those usual town trees, small rowans and the like, the kind we plant now in tight spaces. We have oaks in here. Yes, oaks.

The planting also includes poplar, alder, ash and birch.

There’s evidence that a few of the trees have been felled in the past, stumps remaining.

Previously felled, some time ago

Previously felled, some time ago

And also evidence that perhaps it isn’t that easy to kill them, that nature so often surges back, defiant.

Trees apparently regrowing from stumps. Middle one is an oak.

Trees apparently regrowing from stumps. Middle one is an oak.

Growth was sprouting from the ground again on this patch. Perhaps this kind of low growth is preferred by the shop owners, as it doesn’t obscure the view of the retail offer.

This photo including a car gives a better idea of scale — how tall many of these trees are. They’re fairly lofty, but just getting going really, doing their tree thing.

With car, to give an idea of the size of some of the trees

With car, to give an idea of the size of some of the trees

Tree protection and the ownership question

Letters to the Press and other online comments have referred to ‘our’ trees. There appears to be a sense of ownership, perhaps because they’re in a public place, near roads.

A hedge between them and the ring road looked like it was the boundary of the retail park, which is private property, as this sign on one of the photos I took makes clear (in a blurry way, apologies for the quality).

'This Retail Park is Private Property. ... Beware Of Barriers'

‘This Retail Park is Private Property. …
Beware Of Barriers’

I wondered who owns the land they’re planted on. The form for the planning application provides the answer:

Excerpt from planning application form

Excerpt from planning application form

‘Is the applicant the owner of the tree(s)?’ it asks. The answer is ‘yes’.

So it could be said that we the public have no right to tell the owners of the land what to do with their trees. And we might also think about how vulnerable ‘our trees’ are in other publicly visible/accessible places, where they’re probably not ‘ours’ at all.

The trees do have some protection, from a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). The reasons given in the TPO for the area:

The belt of trees located between the access roads for Clifton Moor Retail Park and the outer ring road (A1237) are considered to be an essential component of the highly visible landscape infrastructure of the retail development, and the setting of the city. The trees (and hedge) can be suitably managed to allow views in to the development whilst retaining a suitable landscape setting. Potentially the trees are no longer protected by conditions of planning consent, therefore it is felt expedient to serve a tree preservation order to protect the integrity the tree belt and the public amenity that it affords.

But a TPO isn’t a guarantee that trees will be protected, as previous experience shows. Tree Preservation Orders can be revoked.

Tree with advert attached

Alongside all their other benefits, these trees also provide extra advertising space

And later, and nearby, and elsewhere

The proposed dualling of the ring road, which I keep hearing mention of every now and then, would presumably wipe out a lot of the wildlife-friendly vegetation now well-established alongside the existing road, and destroy a habitat we’d then have to recreate again, around the wider road.

Trees are being removed all the time, for all kinds of reasons. A huge healthy ash tree has just been felled on the TA barracks site on Burton Stone Lane, to make way for a firing range. Often trees are removed with barely anyone noticing. Thankfully in this case there are many objections, and if you’d like to add to them, the link and info follows. But let’s close the page with the objection posted by Michelle Wyatt, the first objector in what is now a long list:

I do not believe the poor performance of retail outlets is due to trees. I disagree with destroying what little is left of habitats for animals and wildlife to ‘improve views’. I can tell you why I dont shop at Clifton Moor. Its because its hard to get to if you dont have a car & because internet shopping is now my main way to shop. You can chop down as many trees as you like. Everyone will still shop with Amazon. You will simply attract dislike and become unpopular. Please keep the trees. Thankyou

More information

Planning application16/01342/TPO |Fell 103no. trees protected by Tree Preservation Order no.: CYC344 | Clifton Moor Centre Stirling Road York

And as always, I’d like to be helpful and include direct links to the most interesting documents included in the above, but the creaky online system often refuses to display documents. So if the following links don’t work either try again later or try the main link above and scroll down the list.

Application form (PDF)
Letter from Jones Lang LaSalle Ltd (PDF)
Plan clarifying location of trees (PDF) (application relates to block A3)
Plan of proposed removals (PDF)

The objections/comments are also viewable either on the main link or this link, under ‘Comments’, depending on your device.

York Press report on the tree-felling application

View the site via Bing maps

And finally

Providing information like this takes many hours of work — research, thought, writing, photography, and in this case, cycling. It’s all created by one person, who receives no public funding to provide this valuable online resource. The site’s continuation with regularly updated content is more likely if more people support it financially. I have bills to pay just like everyone else. If you’d like to say thank you for this labour of love, here’s a link for that, and more information on this page.

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories
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One comment

  1. Damon Scott

    Your first sentence ‘recently validated’ hits the nail on the head. Without an Arborocultural report on each and every tree to be felled, along with valid reasons why they need to be felled, this application shouldn’t have even got this far. As for not been able to see the shops for the trees, I’m still laughing now.

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