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Statement and clarification of the council’s position on tree felling at Wellingborough Walks

Planning and building control

21 February 2023

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The council is very aware of the strength of public feeling in relation to the removal of trees from the land forming part of Route 2 at Wellingborough’s Stanton Cross development.

North Northamptonshire Council has assessed the works to be undertaken by the developer, which are necessary to facilitate the diversion of essential utilities including a high-pressure gas main, water, fibre optics and electricity.

The council is satisfied that the removal of the trees is authorised activity in relation to the necessary utility related works sited in the area. This work does not require the approval of the council as it is being carried out through the authority provided by legislation to Statutory Undertakers under The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012.

I have listened to the concerns of many local residents and I do understand the strength of feeling in relation to the felling of these trees. Although any tree removal is regrettable, the developer is entitled through legislation to remove those required to facilitate essential utilities works to help deliver the development.
I did meet with the developers yesterday to ask if they would pause their works. I am bitterly disappointed that they would not agree to this request and even at this late moment in the day, I would encourage them to come back and talk about other ways of engaging with concerned members of the public.

The developer did review their plans and have committed to reducing the number of trees that they will remove. However, they could engage more with the local community to determine how any wood from the trees removed could be used for good causes, such as in local parks and play areas.
The developer has pointed out that Stanton Cross will see hundreds of new trees planted, the creation of parks and green spaces, as well as the provision of thousands of new homes. Many of these will be designated as affordable housing with homebuilders contributing more than £200 million to infrastructure improvements over the course of the project.
Councillor Jason Smithers, Leader of the Council

Original statement

Over recent days there has been a number of concerns and statements made regarding the felling of trees from Wellingborough Walks as part of the Stanton Cross development in Wellingborough. North Northamptonshire Council has been reviewing the position and below is a factual statement on the situation.

Planning permission

The original outline planning permission for the Stanton Cross Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) (Reference WP/2004/0600) was approved by the Borough Council of Wellingborough (BCW) in 2008. This application included the proposals for Route 2 and the removal of the trees associated with these works. Since that time there have been a large number of more detailed applications, including Variations and Reserved Matters Applications (RMA’s) approved against the original outline permission.

The most recent planning permission to which Route 2 relates was granted by BCW’s Planning Committee (Ref. WP/15/00605/VAR). The permission was issued on 6 February 2017 as a variation of the earlier WP/2004/0600 application and is the permission being implemented by the developer.

Highway works

The SUE has a requirement to deliver a relatively significant amount of road infrastructure, among which is Route 2, required to divert Stanton Cross traffic from having to go through the town centre. It is understood that the cost to the developer of delivering Route 2 will be in excess of £50m. Where the Route 2 works affect the existing highway, agreements under Section 278 of the Highways Act 1980 are required. The council continues to work with the developer to facilitate their proposed works. 

In respect of the delivery of Route 2, the developer is undertaking preparatory and advance works paving the way for the main highway works later in the year. Part of the preparatory works includes the diversion of existing utility apparatus and services. Regrettably, as part of these diversionary works and ultimately to facilitate the implementation of the highway works, there is a need for the developer to fell a number of trees. Local traffic restrictions will be in place to ensure the works can be undertaken safely.

Exception in law given to statutory undertakers

As a part of the proposals for Route 2, there is also a requirement to carry out some substantial works to utilities, including the diversion of high voltage electric and high-pressure gas mains. Legislation (Regulation 14 of The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012) also enables works by a statutory undertaker (or their contractor) to be undertaken to trees, including any felling necessary, where in connection with the inspection, repair or renewal of any sewers, mains, pipes, cables or other apparatus of the statutory undertaker to be undertaken.

Tree Preservation Order

In 2016 BCW confirmed a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on a large number of lime trees in this area. However the planning permission (also granted by BCW and detailed above), and the exception given in law to statutory undertakers overrides the TPO and it cannot therefore be relied upon to offer continued protection to the trees.


By virtue of the fact that the developer is lawfully implementing a planning permission that includes the modification of road junctions including the London Road roundabout, has the appropriate permissions to enter the highway along with a statutory undertaker exemption, the council has no grounds upon which to prevent the planned works or removal of trees necessary to implement their permission from taking place.

North Northamptonshire Council is therefore bound by the planning permission already granted by the former Borough Council of Wellingborough and is unable to prevent the removal of the trees.

The council is committed to working collaboratively in supporting the continued development of Stanton Cross and will seek to secure a binding commitment from the developer to replace all trees lost as a part of these necessary road infrastructure works.