THE battle to save ancient trees in Westwood’s Becky Addy Wood from being felled has entered a ‘critical phase’ with a threat by Bradford on Avon Town Council to ax 81 trees.
The Friends of Becky Addy Wood – which has raised the funds to buy the wood – claims the council is planning to fell more trees despite protests by the group’s members.
The threat comes despite a new report by arboricultural consultants Barton Hyett Associates, from Pershore, Worcestershire, which shows the council’s approach to be unnecessary and ecologically destructive.
The report, commissioned by FROBAW to support its campaign to save the trees, includes a detailed tree-by-tree risk assessment indicating that none of the proposed felling is merited.
Released on August 28, the report indicates that just three trees posed a ‘tolerable’ risk of dead branches falling on the footpath and, even including these three trees, ‘no risk reduction work’ is required at this time.
Barton Hyett’s senior arboriculturalist and specialist tree risk assessor Ian Monger’s report states that, given the low level of footfall along the path, the woodland is an ‘excellent candidate for monitoring Ash Dieback Disease progression with minimal intervention’.
The report notes that decisions on individual tree removal can be taken on a ‘tree-by-tree basis as the disease progresses’, and in the context of the occupancy of the area below the tree.
FROBAW has used his findings to claim the council’s decision to fell the trees on public safety grounds is based on flawed evidence of the risk to the public and the health of the trees.
The group says: “While the council has estimated that between 192 and 1,728 people per 24 hours use the footpath through the wood FROBAW carried out a footfall count over six weeks in May and June and the result was a count of an average 46 people per 24 hours – 43 during the day and an estimated additional three people overnight.
“Their survey shows the council’s risk assessment of being hit by a falling tree (statistically less than a one in ten million chance in the UK) has been grossly overstated due to a massive overestimation of the numbers using the footpath.”
A spokesperson added: “However, despite this latest report and months of lobbying and work by FROBAW to buy the wood Bradford on Avon Town Council acquired to protect the trees, the felling work is due to proceed.
“Furthermore, as Barton Hyett’s report notes, except for some key exceptions: “all trees within the woodland are protected by the statutory protection for trees (TPO), so the permission of Wiltshire Council must be obtained before any intended tree works.
“FROBAW calls on Bradford on Avon Town Council to consider the evidence presented in Barton Hyett’s new report, halt any imminent felling and work with them on a monitoring program as handover of ownership goes forward.”
A spokesperson for Bradford on Avon Town Council said: “It is simply not the case that 81 trees will be felled imminently. Currently, the town council is undertaking works on 17 trees which are imminently dangerous.
“Around half of these have or will be felled with the remainder having branches lopped or being reduced in height to prevent them falling.
“Using the same approach, the town council will undertake works on around 50 trees over the winter.
“In the interest of public safety, the town council has a responsibility to act on advice given by our professional tree surveyor. Not doing so could invalidate the town council’s public liability insurance.
“While FROBAW LTD has commissioned its own report, undertaken on 17-18 August, the town council questions its conclusion that no works are needed when since February at least 10 trees have fallen in the woodland.”