'Shocking destruction' - fury over removal of trees at walking spot
- Credit: Terry Jermy
Walkers have hit out over “shocking destruction” at a popular walking spot, where an area of trees has been cleared.
Residents and councillors in Thetford said they were “devastated” after the removal of woodland on private land belonging to the Kilverstone Estate, next to Joe Blunt’s Lane.
The site neighbours the new Kingsfleet housing development which is set to see 7,000 homes built in the town.
But the Kilverstone Estate said that the removal of woodland was part of silvicultural thinning to improve the quality and growth of the trees on Cedar Row, as well as the removal of unsafe trees.
Hazel McCambridge, a Thetford resident, said the tree felling had upset many in the town who regularly visited the area. She raised concerns about the destruction of wildlife habitats during bird mating season.
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Following the discovery of the tree felling, Ms McCambridge used Facebook to set up the group "Save Joe Blunt’s Trees" which has nearly 200 members.
She said: “Ancient oaks have been obliterated with a promise of replacing them with saplings, but we are in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency. Those saplings will take 100 years to have the impact of these ancient oaks.
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“It’s one thing going in with a chainsaw to cut down diseased trees, compared to ripping and clawing out undergrowth and clearing an entire area.
“This is also an area special to many in Thetford. It is a lane where they played as children and continued to use for recreation to this day.”
Kilverstone Estate’s forestry contractor said the area would have been inspected by the Forestry Commission to consider the impact of the proposal on the woodland wildlife and that a European Protected Species survey was carried out – as required by the Forestry Commission Felling Licence.
They said: “Tree felling is legally permitted during the bird breeding season so long as measures are in place to observe and avoid disturbing active nests.
“It is an offence to damage any wild bird nest whilst in use, or any Schedule One bird while nesting or breeding, except where there is an immediate safety hazard.
“Therefore, tree felling is not prohibited during spring, but requires areas that are to be worked to be checked for the above.
“The contractor is legally responsible for this, rather than the landowner, and they have those measures in place and are competent to execute them.”
Local councillor Terry Jermy, who is also a member of the Facebook group, said more needed to be done to protect the town’s trees.
He said: “I am very disappointed to see the destruction and removal of so many trees in this area, which comes on top of the destruction that occurred along Norwich Road at the outset of the development.
“The tree removal seems to have followed all of the correct procedures in terms of Breckland Council.
“Sadly, whilst people on the whole have finally caught on to the importance of our environment and the climate emergency situation, our systems and processes in local government haven't and our planning process certainly hasn't, in my opinion.
“I hope that this really awful situation serves as a bit of a wake-up call for all of us.”
Breckland Council – which declared a climate emergency last year - stated that the trees were not covered by a Tree Preservation Order and did not form part of a Conservation Area, so permission to fell the trees was not required.
Ms McCambridge added: The next step is to protect the rest of Thetford.
“7,000 homes are being built in Thetford so this is going to be ongoing for years.
“It is going to be a battle so we need people understanding why it's so important that we are protecting these trees: to help us look through planning applications and attend meetings to protect our trees.
“It has raised awareness in the town and it has made people think about what we can do to protect them in the future.”