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.
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?