Shirley Tree Slaughter

It is surprisingly common for many small landowners to fell more than the 5m³ allowed by the ‘Felling Licence’ regulations at one time, without fear of fines or any kind of reprisals. It is obvious that the huge trend in wood burners has exasperated this problem and continues to do so and the majority of the public still remain in ignorance over felling requirements. A reduction in the FC workforce and thus policing of tree felling is badly timed when there is an increasing lust for wood to burn.

The exclusions for a felling licence, when a Tree Preservation order is not in place are:

  • a garden
  • an orchard
  • a churchyard
  • a designated open space (Commons Act 1899)

Quite why these trees have absolutely no protection, no NGO tupthumping for their preservation is of a concern at a time when it is a clear that many people want to see ALL trees protected, particularly when they stand within their own landscape. This is why ‘grassroots’ groups are ever more popular, this is why there is confusion as to why there needs be overlay, after, overlay of designation awarded to some woodland and individual trees but not others – the one’s which are actually in population centres. And we are fighting a hopeless cause in trying to educate about the importance of trees when these trees in peoples places’, the trees they interact with daily are subject to removal without their consent and most importantly without any ‘paper trial’ to explain the decisions. I know and admire the fact that tree officers with Local Authorities, (normally from an arboricultural background and thus with an innate love for trees), do a tremendous amount of work to ensure good practice. And the practitioners with the qualifications themselves do a heck of a lot of ‘unrecognised’ work to dispel myths with regards trees and thus persuade clients to choose an alternative route, (tree valuations helps considerably in this regard). And this helps to reduce the impact of tree felling to a more tolerable level. It is the majority of practitioners themselves, often classed as the butcherer, who are at the frontline of defence in preserving these trees.

But we desperately need either a very transparent and preferably online system explaining the decision to fell any tree, or, better still – and, as in France, where any tree over a certain age is automatically protected.

There was clearly more than 5m³ felled in one annual quarter of trees to make way for a development by Asda’s in Shirley, West Midlands. Is the land registered as residential? Or maybe as designated open space? It must fall into one category or another as it does not appear on the FC public register.

R F Field

There is clearly a planning loophole because there is surely no way that a multinational company would flout the laws. But is it really too much to ask for this to be explained and thus allow for discussion to both aid developers in avoiding conflict and possible costs due to protest and ease the minds of locals who have grown up alongside these trees and will thus bear a grudge against any who fell them?

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6 Comments

Filed under Trees and Woodlands

6 responses to “Shirley Tree Slaughter

  1. Ben

    A felling licence is not required if the felling is included in planning permission granted under the town and country planning act. That may be the case in this instance.

  2. Thanks Ben for highlighting that – I have to admit to not considering that before penning the blog and having googled further this is a far from hidden development. There has been a length of time between planning consent and the destruction of the trees, further promoting an emotive response to the felling in question. And in this case it is the developers themselves who have retained online the plans, whilst a brief search on the Solihull Council planning site did not highlight anything – although I am sure there has to be something somewhere.

    This is still very much ‘front line’ though and a great case for highlighting a lack of good communication and above all the fact that trees are considered not worthy enough of more detailed explanation; particularly as the trees in question, where more are due to be felled are a really prominent landscape feature in the area.

  3. As an update, it appears the initial planning application was on the presumption that the trees could be relocated – it was then just over a week ago realised that they couldn’t be and the felling was granted by the Solihull planning committee. http://www.birminghammail.net/news/solihull-news/2012/03/06/solihull-lib-dem-mp-lorely-burt-outraged-at-felling-of-shirley-park-oak-trees-97319-30466686/

  4. alecdauncey

    Erm and FC England are clearfelling about 10 square miles of forest every year….

  5. Again there’s a communication problem, but FC need to bolster the whole of the forest industry including bringing in the money to prevent Defra from pulling the plug on what was nearly self financing – but they haven’t survived the lastest cuts and there will be pressure by central government to bring in as much money as possible – trying to explain the need for a better, more palatable silvicultural practice is nigh on impossible in the current climate and this sets a precedent that others will abuse.

    These trees in Shirley had a high and tangible value if they had been valued under any one of the recognised systems. I don’t think they would have been as keen to fell had the CAVAT system or even Helliwell been registered and used as a means of determining an offset price – as the costs would enable a new woodland to be created not just a few semi mature trees squeezed into a car park periphery.

  6. Roderick Leslie

    Planning permission overides tree protection legislation because tree issues should be taken into account in issuing the permission. So if the Asda site already had planning permission this was not an illegal felling.
    Developers do, of course, try and get in there first to remove the obstacle of trees in the way – and run a very good risk of being prosecuted, their planning apllication compromised a big fine but, worst of all, replanting conditions which are enforced. Which is why it doesn’t happen very often.

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