Saturday, 19 October 2013

Protecting trees in East Devon: District Council to debate

In the light of concerns
Futures Forum: Protecting trees in East Devon
the following motion has been proposed for next week's full council meeting on Wednesday 23rd October at 6.30 pm:

15 Motion 3 – Value and protection of trees 

"This Council recognises the great value of trees to the East Devon landscape, particularly ancient woodland, and also the importance of trees to wildlife. This council is concerned at the loss of trees as a result of development proposals, and is particularly concerned at the removal of trees by developers ahead of receiving planning approval. 
This Council: 
1. calls on the Government to provide greater protection for trees and ancient woodland 
2. calls on the government to allow greater penalties for developers who remove trees without permission 
3. asks the Portfolio Holder for Environment to pursue options for woodland creation and tree planting in East Devon.” 

Proposed by Councillor Claire Wright, Seconded by Councillor Roger Giles and supported by Councillors Trevor Cope, Susie Bond and Ben Ingham 

A recent post and comments have highlighted the issues:

West Hill killed oaks would have lived for another 100 years

comments (9)

East Devon District Council’s senior tree officer, David Colman, has spoken out about the enormous value to nature, of the two veteran oak trees that were fatally and deliberately damaged by a developer last week in West Hill.
West Hill killed oaks would have lived for another 100 years
... were killed, or ordered to be killed, by Hugo Headon of H & H Prestige Homes.
Mr Colman said:  “The two oak trees were old hedgebank trees that have been growing alongside the highway for at least 150 years. They are plotted on the Ordnance Survey First edition maps (1888-1890) and must have already been significant trees for them to have been recorded as landmarks .  At this age they should be in a fully mature condition.
“However their appearance is one of over-maturity, there is significant dead wood within the crowns of the trees also there has been a history of periodic branch removal and reduction. Some of this work will have been required because the electricity lines run through the canopy and also the proximity to the highway. The more general over-mature/veteran condition is probably due to root damage sustained at the time of the original development of the property when the driveway was cut through the bank.
The life expectancy of the trees would have been at least another 100 years, although management works to the crown might well have resulted in a reduced size to the trees.
Trees of this age and maturity are a unique feature of the English landscape and are massively important for maintaining the biodiversity of the locality. An oak tree of this age can be a host to over 300 species of other plants, lichens, vertebrates and invertebrates.”
How very sad.
Photograph:  The lovely mature oaks at Cornercroft, West Hill, four of which were similarly killed prior to submission of a planning application, earlier this year.  You can see the stump of one in the foreground.


1. At 06:22 pm on 10th Oct Roger Giles wrote:
The two oak trees are a distinctive feature in West Hill Road, in the very heart of West Hill. For a landowner to ask someone to ringbark the two trees is utterly contemptible.
I would be interested to know who actually carried out the ringbarking of the two trees, because such behaviour, in my opinion, makes them totally unsuitable to operate as tree surgeons.  Could we be told who carried out this deplorable act?
2. At 07:03 pm on 10th Oct Claire wrote:
Sid Valley Trees were certainly working with Mr Headon on site but it is unclear whether it was the tree surgeons or Mr Headon, who actually killed the oaks.
There were of course, a large number of trees in the back garden which were also either felled or killed, when EDDC’s tree officer visited last week.
3. At 12:51 pm on 11th Oct Clare wrote:
So what is being done by EDDC to protect all the other mature oaks and other important trees in East Devon? how can we prevent this from happening elsewhere?
4. At 09:52 pm on 11th Oct John Varley wrote:
The sad thing is that we are unlikely to see oak trees of that generation again in another 100 years.  The grey squirrel from N America will see to that.  At 10 to 20 years old oaks and other deciduous trees are bark stripped by the Grey during the summer months.  I have seen whole plantations of oaks in North Devon killed at around 15 years old by the Grey Squirrel.  Older trees just suffer branch damage.  There is no way of protecting them.  The indigenous Red Squirrel did not do this.  So, trees currently 50 to 150 years old are quite precious as they will continue to be a landscape feature that future generations will not have the pleasure of seeing.  Development will of course, very occasionally, need to take priority over a fine old oak tree but this should not be the norm.  I agree that we should encourage landowners to respect special trees, especially vintage oaks.  TPOing every oak is not a sensible way forward for a whole range of reasons - not least the unforeseen consequences of deterring their owners undertaking regular management (esp roadside trees).  Inspecting and removing dangerous branches is an expensive business for the owners and a TPO increases the costs exponentially.  However for vintage trees in special places the TPO has a role.  Perhaps one way of approaching the subject is to encourage local people in the AONB to identify their special tree / s and raise their profile.  The AONB partnership did something like this a few years ago I think and published the results.  You don’t have to TPO everything but by raising public awareness and interest the pressure to retain certain individual trees will increase.
5. At 03:34 pm on 12th Oct val jones wrote:
We would very much welcome John Varley’s help here in Feniton as we are trying to protect some oaks, ashes and beech trees that are at risk from developers who are building on the site. They are mature trees and the ash trees have survived the die-back so it is important that they are allowed to survive without having their roots cut during the development.  Our efforts to get a TPO on them has met a lot of resistance from EDDC although there is a tremendous amount of support in the village for them to be preserved.  If John Varley could help us or give us advice, please email Claire and she will pass your email on to me. Thanks
6. At 08:38 pm on 12th Oct John Varley wrote:
Dear Val.  I will speak with our forestry team and get back to you via Claire Wright’s direct email within a week I hope.
7. At 11:00 pm on 12th Oct Sandra Semple wrote:
When I was a town councillor (2007-2010) We was told that the EDDC Arboricultural service would no longer be proactive (seeking out trees to be preserve by TPO) but reactive (responding only to current trees under imminent threat).  I presume it is still the same.
8. At 09:17 am on 13th Oct Claire wrote:
Hi Sandra (apologies for not replying earlier Clare) yes this is still the case.  Myself, West Hill Residents Association and some concerned residents are currently talking about how this is affecting West Hill in particular, as its abundance of important mature trees combined with the high level of garden development is proving to be a toxic mix.
9. At 01:30 pm on 13th Oct Dick Beardsall wrote:
Thanks for publicising this Claire. It is another sickening example of developers’ contempt for their and our environment. (Incidentally, if memory serves me correctly, it was Sid Valley who ring barked the four oaks at Corner Croft earlier this year.)
In West Hill we have set up a project called “Special Trees of West Hill” which aims to identify all the trees and hedgerows which help to give West Hill its special character. We shall be explaining what this is about and reporting on the progress made in the trial area at a public meeting at WH Village Hall on Friday 18 October. The meeting starts at 7.30 but the STOWH item will start around 8.30 immediately following (free) refreshments. So why not look in, hear what we are doing and contribute to the debate. You will be very welcome.

The West Hill Residents' Assn met last night to consider this project:

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