Factory v old tree dilemma for planners

The future of a 200-year-old oak tree was pitched against the future of a pioneering engineering firm as councillors were faced with a tricky planning dilemma.

The future of a 200-year-old oak tree was pitched against the future of a pioneering engineering firm as councillors were faced with a tricky planning dilemma.

Heitz Engineering - described as “dynamic and innovative” - produces specialist and high specification equipment for the oil and gas industry from its premises on the Rash's Green industrial estate at Dereham.

It currently employs 10 full-time and one part-time staff and is looking to take on extra employees as it expands.

Heitz wants to create extra workshop space and new offices at the site in Charles Wood Road as its current base is “fit to bursting” and would have to consider moving if it could not get the go-ahead.


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But the project would mean the giant oak tree would have to be removed.

Breckland planning officers recommended the scheme being refused to save the tree.

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However, on Monday the development control committee indicated that while they generally want to protect trees, they felt the future of Heitz was more important.

The plans have been deferred for more discussions to be held with the 30-year-old company over a tree planting scheme in the local area and how much it would give.

Director Anthony Thomas said the tree had to be removed to allow the expansion and he would work with the council to get new trees planted.

Breckland's head of economic development Mark Stanton said it was “a small dynamic and innovative company.”

Development control committee member Bill Borrett said: “It is undoubtedly an important tree but this business is just the sort of business Dereham needs. It employs skilled people. It is very sad to risk losing Heitz. I am not saying it is not an important tree but we have to make choices. In this case the business is more important.”

Nigel Wilkin said it was “unacceptable” for the tree to have to be removed.

Head of planning Phil Daines said: “Planning officers said there are theoretical options for the applicant but no theoretical options for the tree.”

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