THE value of mature trees on air quality cannot be underestimated, developers were told, as a bid to build housing near an historic property was thrown out by East Lothian councillors.

Two separate appeals over rejected plans to build next to Tenterfield House in Haddington were dismissed after councillors ruled that the potential damage to trees on the site was unacceptable.

The appeals, by the same applicant, KRA, related to plans to build three new homes next to Tenterfield House, once owned by the family of the first premier of New South Wales (NSW), Sir Stuart Donaldson, and which gave its name to the town of Tenterfield, NSW and through that to the Tenterfield Oration – a speech which led to the federation of Australia.

A meeting of East Lothian Council’s Local Review Body was told that planning officers rejected the proposals amid objections over the loss of mature trees, recreational land and privacy.

They said that one of the applications for two houses on part of the site would lead to a loss of trees, adding that “the loss of trees of the open space and the loss of trees on the site would have a detrimental impact on the experience of the listed building and its setting”.

And they repeated their concerns over the second application for a separate single house on neighbouring land.

The applicants insisted the impact of the new housing on the conservation area would be ‘minor’.

However, at the meeting, Councillor Sue Kempson said she supported the decision by planning officers.

She said: “The value of mature trees cannot be underestimated in providing good-quality air and it is important any large trees of this nature should be preserved.”

Her view was supported by fellow review body members, who said it was clear building on either part of the site would impact on the surrounding trees and result in a loss of amenity.

Chairing the review body, Councillor Norman Hampshire said a site visit to the land, which lies off Tenterfield Drive in the town, had made it clear no building could take place without damaging the surrounding trees. He said: “If these trees were lost it would have a huge impact on the quality of this conservation area.”

The review body supported the original decision by planning officers to refuse both applications.

Tenterfield House, which was built in the mid 19th century, later became a children’s home and was converted into flats in the 1990s.