Forestry Commission insist ancient woodland in Peterborough is safe amid ‘confusion’ over public consultation

The Forestry Commission has insisted that an ancient woodland in Peterborough is safe after ‘confusion’ over a public consultation currently taking place.

Sunday, 22nd August 2021, 5:00 am
The Forestry Commission have confirmed that the area circled is not the area affected by the proposed felling.

In July, a public consultation was launched by the commission after a felling licence application from Milton Estate to fell a number of trees on their estate close to Bretton.

When the consultation appeared on the Forestry Commission’s public register, it included a diagram which circled an area in south west Bretton that included Grimshaw Wood.

This raised fears that an area of 5.28 hectares of the nature reserve was to be lost. Hundreds of residents signed a petition against this, fearing the area could be developed into housing.

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The Peterborough Telegraph has now been able to clarify that the area in question is in fact the Mucklands Wood, just to the north of Grimshaw Wood and close to Hyholmes and Dunsberry in Bretton and that the trees being felled are infected with Ash Dieback and other fungus.

The application states the there is a plan for replanting the trees and the Forestry Commission has admitted that confusion has been caused by the fact the public register shows a point of reference between the areas to be felled, which gives the impression that Grimshaw Wood was to be affected .

A spokesperson for the Forestry Commission said: “There has unfortunately been a lot of confusion regarding the location of the proposed felling for this Felling Licence.

“Unfortunately, rather than showing the mapped areas, the public register puts a point of reference in-between areas to be felled, so in this case, it looks like the Grimshaw Wood is to be felled, whereas it will actually be sections of Mucklands Wood to the north and New Plantation to the south.

“The woods won’t be removed but will be restocked with native broadleaves and up to 5 percent conifers in the registered Park woodlands (at the request of Historic England, given that the original designed planting contained conifers).

“Mucklands Wood is Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland, so only the softwood to be planted there is yew (a native conifer), it being inappropriate to restock with non-native species where they were not previously present.

“The following text, which accompanied the felling licence application, explains why the licence has been applied for.

‘These woodlands make up important screens to Milton Park, also providing an important backdrop to a historic Parkland. With the added safety from these boundary trees, these woodlands are in need of some management. The two woods on the boundary of the estate are mostly populated with Ash which is infected with Ash Dieback and secondary fungi (honey fungus and Inonotus).

‘Wind damage is prominent throughout and the woods being Ash dominant are no longer at the thinning stage. I am suggesting a clear fell of two of the areas and a regeneration felling of another. Replanting all areas with mixed hardwoods with a small amount of pine and shrub layer throughout.

Due to the location of the two sites sensitivity would be needed when carrying out the work. The work will be carried out in the summer to avoid damaging the historic park.

‘Measures would be taken to safeguard protected species; site checks would be carried out in the spring to identify larger bird nesting sites and inspections would take place before and during harvesting. If nesting sites were found, a map pinpointing the location would be put with the risk assessments and all workers made aware. If measures cannot be taken to work safely around the nest then work will stop and commence once the nesting bird has moved on.’

“There aren’t any plans to fell the trees for housing, it is just that the trees are reaching the end of their lives given the Ash Dieback and secondary pathogens (and the woods being Ancient-Semi-Natural Woodland, or on a registered park, then the prospects of the owner ever receiving planning permission on the woods are negligible- planning permission being given on such woodlands is very rare and only really happens with the development is deemed vital, such as for HS2).

“The Felling Licence will be conditional on the areas being restocked to produce the next cohort of trees which can then provide benefits for future generations.”