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Tree blocks firm's expansion plans

PUBLISHED: 17:59 13 October 2008 | UPDATED: 14:46 07 July 2010

Expansion plans which could have created up to 10 new jobs in mid-Norfolk were shelved this week after planners refused to allow a protected 200-year-old oak tree to be felled.

Expansion plans which could have created up to 10 new jobs in mid-Norfolk were shelved this week after planners refused to allow a protected 200-year-old oak tree to be felled.

Anthony Thomas, a director of Heitz Engineering, based on Dereham's Rash's Green Industrial Estate, wants to expand his business but the tree stands in the way of the proposed expansion at Charles Wood Road and he reacted angrily to the planners' decision to refuse consent for a workshop extension describing it as “totally bizarre”.

“I'm very disappointed, in fact, I'm disgusted at the committee's decision, half of them don't know where that tree is and the expansion plans could have created 10 new jobs, I just despair and its just a joke,” said Mr Thomas.

Members of Beckland Council's development control committee heard on Monday that Mr Thomas and Dereham Town Council had agreed to a series of measures to mitigate loss of the officially protected tree including planting six oaks on the Neatherd moor, a sponsored conservation day, provision of picnic benches and other ecological elements.

But Michael Fanthorpe spoke strongly in favour of keeping the tree because, he claimed, Toftwood, near Dereham, was virtually a “tree-less area”.

“This tree will serve that community much more than any engineering workshop,” he said.

He also told fellow members that he did not want to be party to planting a few twigs on the moor or digging out a pond.

John Labouchere said he felt bad about the issue because he wanted to support the retention of the tree while at the same time had sympathy for Mr Thomas's expansion plans.

Mr Thomas had previously told the committee that his company, producers of specialist and high quality specification equipment for the oil, defence and motorsport industries, had seen a 15-21 per cent increase in turnover a year since a management buyout in 2003. The firm currently employs 10 full-time staff and was “bursting at the seams” so there was an urgent need for expansion.

He said that his firm's expansion plans would now be shelved for the immediate future.

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