Green Monuments Coed Cadw Full

Here is the full statement from Coed Cadw (Woodland Trust) ©Woodland Trust

 

The Gnarled and Wrinkly need you!

We call on the Welsh Assembly to provide proper protection for Wales’ ancient, veteran and heritage trees.

Coed Cadw (the Woodland Trust) is about to launch its latest campaign. This will take the form of a petition.

Coed Cadw (The Woodland Trust) has launched a petition calling on the Welsh Assembly to provide proper protection for Wales’ ancient, veteran and heritage trees, and advice and support for their owners.

What is Coed Cadw calling for?

Coed Cadw believes that the ancient, veteran and heritage trees of Wales are a vital and irreplaceable part of our environment and heritage. So we are calling on the Welsh Assembly to provide greater protection for them, for example by:

 

 

Why is this necessary?

Coed Cadw believes that every ancient, veteran or heritage tree lost is one too many. There have been a number of cases in Wales in recent years where mature or veteran trees have been felled, which might have been saved if the changes we proposing had been implemented. See the panel to the right for more details.

Isn’t the good will of the owners of these trees their best protection?

Yes, we believe it is. That’s why we’re calling for the new Single Environmental Body which is soon to be created,  to have a power or a duty to promote the conservation of ancient, veteran and heritage trees by providing advice and support for their owners, including grant aid where necessary.

The Tree Preservation Order system is far from perfect, but it does provide basic protection for important trees which might otherwise be at risk. The greatest weakness of the current system, Coed Cadw believes, is that it provides no positive support for landowners who want to do the right thing by their ancient trees, but for whom doing so might cost significantly more than simply felling them as soon as a problem arose.

Which trees would this include?

This power, or duty is intended to apply only to ancient, veteran or heritage trees. We believe that new Single Environmental Body should consult on criteria that would be used in determining which trees would qualify as such.

What changes to the Tree Preservation Order system is Coed Cadw calling for?

We are proposing a number of fairly minor changes to make the Tree Preservation Order system fully fit for purpose. Those these are fairly minor, we believe they address the key weaknesses of the present system, and would thus significantly improve the protection that Wales’ ancient trees enjoy.

For example, the present system includes a blanket exception for trees which are “dead or dying”. If taken literally, this excludes some of our oldest and most valuable trees, as it may take centuries for an ancient oak, for example, to gradually decline. The question should not be whether a tree is dying; it should be, is it dangerous, and if so, is there a way of reducing any risk to an acceptable level, short of felling it?

How can I get involved?

In October 2006, two mature oak trees were felled at dawn on a Saturday morning in Penmaenmawr in Conwy. The larger tree is believed to have been between 200 and 300 years old. Local residents were unable to contact Conwy County Borough Council to ask for the trees to be protected by a Tree Preservation Order, despite the involvement of an elected member of the Council and the Police. Though a Forestry Commission Officer attended the scene on the Monday morning, it was not possible to prosecute. In this picture, Rory Francis of Coed Cadw examines the stump.

Twenty mature trees are felled on a Sunday morning at Penrhyndeudraeth. In June 2009 some 20 mature tree, mostly oak and ash, were felled on a Sunday morning at the site of the former Bron-y-garth hospital at Penrhyndeudraeth. Local people contacted the County Council and the police, but it was not possible to serve a Tree Preservation Order in time to save them. DEFRA investigated the event as a possible breach of law with regard to the lack of a felling licence, but the case never reached court.

Coed Cadw (the Woodland Trust) is calling on the Welsh Assembly to increase the protection for ancient, veteran and heritage trees in Wales, for example by:

  1. Placing a duty of the Single Environmental Body to promote the conservation of ancient, veteran and heritage trees by providing advice and support for the owners of such trees that meet criteria set by the agency following consultation. This would include the provision of grant aid where work was needed for the benefit of the tree. The agency would also have a duty to advise Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) on the care of such trees.
  2. Amending the present Tree Preservation Order (TPO) legislation to make it fit for purpose in protecting our most ancient and venerable trees:

 

  1. To remove the blanket exemption for trees that are ‘dead’ or ‘dying’
  2. To reword the reference to dangerous trees to distinguish between those trees which constitute a ‘real and present danger’, which would remain exempt, and others where there is a less immediate safety issue to address. Also to clarify that work should be limited to those parts of the tree which actually constitute such a danger and that the LPA should be notified as soon as possible.
  3. To clarify that the wildlife and heritage interest does constitute ‘amenity’ for the purpose of TPO legislation.

 

  1. In the case of trees carrying TPOs which also meet the criteria in section 1 above, LPAs would have the right to refuse permission to fell trees, but to refer to the new environmental agency to advise on management work and funding, as above.

 

  1. To put a duty on LPAs to publish a telephone number on which the public can contact the authority about tree preservation issues out of usual office hours.

To replace the current two category penalty system with one which would allow the courts to impose penalties at a level they believe to be appropriate. (Under the current system it is extremely difficult for LPAs to bring a prosecution for a category 1 offence; the maximum penalty for a category 2 offence is just £2,500. This is hardly a meaningful deterrent, bearing in mind the value of building plots.)

 

  1. The 6 month time limit for prosecutions should be from the date on which the prosecuting officer has sufficient evidence to justify proceedings, not from the date of commission. This is already the case in England.

 

  1. To require LPAs to digitise the location of trees covered by TPOs, within a given timescale, and pass this information to the new environmental agency so it can be collated, published  and distributed at Wales level.

 

  1. Incorporating the publically facing database of trees verified under the Ancient Tree Hunt, as one of the datasets in any successor to the Wales Spatial Plan, recognising these as ‘Trees of Special Interest’ and providing this information to Local Planning Authorities in Wales so that it can be incorporated into their GIS systems, for information.