Nature lovers who forked out £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.
The ‘Friends of Becky Addy Wood’ used their own cash to help Bradford-on-Avon Town Council in Wiltshire purchase the land for £45,000.
It meant the historic 10-acre woodland, first recorded in Saxon times, was preserved for generations.
But just two years later the nature group are “dismayed” by the council’s application to fell over 100 of its trees.
The authority has applied to the Forestry Commission for a licence to fell 152 – claiming each as ‘an imminent risk’ to walkers.
It 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 says the council have ignored advice from the government, the Woodland Trust, UK Wildlife Trusts and the Tree Council on managing Ash dieback.
The group says said the council’s plans to fell the trees 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.
“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 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.
“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 ___n 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”.
“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.”
To comment on the council’s felling application, visit this link and enter Becky Addy Wood in the search box: https://forester.maps.arcgis.com/apps/CrowdsourcePolling/index.html?appid=6bc1fd7f76fa41cf85866092532e0c1c