Council plans to cut 152 trees after campaigners helped buy woodland

Campaigners who paid £30,000 to help council buy ancient woodland are left furious after the authority announced plans to cut down 152 trees over health and safety fears

  • Friends of Becky Addy Wood used their own cash to help a council buy the land
  • Bradford-on-Avon Town Council in Wiltshire purchase the land for £45,000
  • But the council applied to fell over 100 trees saying they are a risk to walkers

Campaigners who paid £30,000 to help a council buy an ancient woodland are furious after the authority announced plans to cut down 152 trees – over health and safety fears. 

A town council in Wiltshire claims the over 100 trees are each at ‘an imminent risk’ to walkers and need to be managed due to Ash dieback disease. 

The ‘Friends of Becky Addy Wood’ used their own cash to preserve the historic 10-acre woodland, first recorded in Saxon times, for future generations.

By putting up two-thirds of the funds, campaigners helped Bradford-on-Avon Town Council in Wiltshire purchase the land for £45,000 in April 2020. 

And just two years later the council says it has to cut them down to manage Ash dieback disease and they ‘might fall or drop limbs on users of the adjacent road and public footpath through the woodland’. 

But the campaigners say the council has ignored advice from the government, the Woodland Trust, UK Wildlife Trusts and the Tree Council on managing Ash dieback. 

Campaigners who paid £30,000 to help a council buy an ancient woodland are furious after the authority announced plans to cut down 152 trees – over health and safety fears. Pictured: The Becky Addy Wood 

The authority has applied to the Forestry Commission for a licence to fell the 152 trees. 

If approved the group says it will cause ‘irreversible damage’ to the small woodland and its wildlife – including rare bats and nesting birds.

One resident, David McQueen, 57, said: ‘I am absolutely horrified by this absurd over-reaction.

‘There is a 1 in 11 million chance of being killed by a falling tree in the UK and yet they want to destroy this tranquil, historic wood over it.

Becky Addy Wood, pictured, is owned and maintained by Bradford-on-Avon Town Council 

Campaigners say the council have ignored advice from the government, the Woodland Trust, UK Wildlife Trusts and the Tree Council on managing Ash dieback. Pictured: The woods with light breaking through

‘It’s another example of local council overreach. We want our beauty spot protected, not hacked to pieces.

‘This is a literal hatchet job designed by a jobsworth wildly over-reacting to the one-in-a -million threat to local walkers who can look after themselves.

‘Woods are resilient. We don’t need protecting from the woods, we need protecting from overzealous councillors.

‘Will we be able to walk through any wood without a local council cutting down any nearby ash tree? There are 125 million ash trees in the UK.

‘How many do they want to cut down because of some theoretical threat? A hundred thousand? A million? 50 million? Where does this end?

‘Risk averse council will end up decimating local woods everywhere just at the point we need more trees, not less.’

A tree felled in the Becky Addy Wood. Many have been damaged by Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin

The authority has applied to the Forestry Commission for a licence to fell the 152 trees in the woods, pictured

A spokesman for the The Friends of Becky Addy Wood added: ‘Many trees in Becky Addy Wood claimed to be dead in the October tree survey have now been found by a local expert to be alive and full of Spring buds.

‘We have it on good authority that the tree survey was not a specific survey on the health of the trees and that only trees posing an undeniable and immediate risk to public safety should be felled.

‘We urge a more gradual approach, based on the very latest science, which recommends frequent monitoring and low intervention.

A spokesperson for Bradford on Avon Town Council said: ‘The Town Council is following the guidance and advice from accredited organisations including Forest Research, the Woodland Trust and the Arboricultural Association’. Pictured: Campaigners look at the trees

A spokesperson for Bradford on Avon Town Council said: ‘The Town Council is following the guidance and advice from accredited organisations including Forest Research, the Woodland Trust and the Arboricultural Association.

‘We are proud of our forward-thinking and scientifically-based approach to biodiversity. We are taking the opportunity to carefully consider the ecology of the woodland as we carry out necessary safety works.

‘Official and scientific guidance [for] trees emphasises that particular care is needed to address danger near roads and footpaths.

‘Individual trees have been surveyed where they might fall or drop limbs on users of the adjacent road and public footpath through the woodland.

‘This survey, for safety purposes, was carried out at an appropriate time of year by a professional qualified tree surveyor who identified real dangers observed at the time of survey – including obvious signs of extensive Ash Dieback.

‘Away from where falling trees may endanger the public; the Town Council is taking a different approach to managing Ash Dieback, where we will be able to monitor the ongoing decline of trees as part of a scientific study.

‘We have been commended by one of the leading scientists undertaking the research into resistance to dieback in ash trees: “I’ve read your plan with interest – it’s a great plan, and a credit to Bradford on Avon Town Council. It’s what I would do if it (Becky Addy Wood) was in my hands”.

‘The Town Council, as landowner, has a duty to manage its risk, as assessed by a qualified independent tree expert,’ it claims. Pictured: A campaigner wants the trees saved 

‘During and after the recent storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin there was significant damage to trees in Becky Addy Wood – including large Ash trees that had fallen across the public footpath and others hanging over the footpath.

‘The Town Council, as landowner, has a duty to manage its risk, as assessed by a qualified independent tree expert.

‘Failing to do so would not only put users of the footpaths at risk but also the Town Council in terms of liability.

‘The Town Council is planning the recovery of Becky Addy Wood, which will include planting a wider mix of tree species so the woodland is ecologically more diverse and resilient.’ 

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