Coppicing in the High Woods
Many of you are aware of the issues that we have had in the High Woods, where the farmer has built a road from High Woods Lane to Hawkenbury Road. The landowner has been doing further felling around the bridle path area and the HVA has received a number of complaints. The complaints ranged from damage to the undergrowth, removal of trees and destroying the wildlife sanctuary.
The felling and coppicing is taking place under a licence granted by the Forestry Commission and both the Forestry Commission and TWBC Tree officer have been out and had a look at the site. Their report is below. Whilst we are disappointed that the landowner appears to be clearing a large section of wood, he is doing so within the remit of his licence. We just hope that once he is finished, the woods will have an opportunity to recover.
The ‘road’ is still subject to an appeal and we have not heard anything further.
The following email was received from Daniel Docker, Tree Officer at TWBC:
As you are aware, we have visited the site as a result of concerns raised over the recent approved management works several times, reporting our findings back to the Forestry Commission as appropriate. We have let you know that whilst we, the Council would prefer that the works were carried out to different timing, there is no evidence that the works that have been carried out have been in contravention of the TPO or of the Forestry Commission Felling Licence.
Because of the recent level of local concern, representatives of the Forestry Commission agreed to meet me on site, and we did that last Wednesday morning. We walked over the whole of the site, and were satisfied that the works have been carried out in accordance with the felling licence. Whilst the Council have reservations over the seasonal timing, the Forestry Commission, who deal with woodland management on a day to day basis, are satisfied that this is not an unusual practice and does not impact negatively on the woodland in the longer term. Ecological issues will also have been taken into account in the granting of the licence.
The Felling Licence is for coppicing, and not for removal of Standard trees. It is evident that Standard trees have been left, and the veteran Sweet Chestnut by the quarry is no exception to this. We agree that it is an important tree. As removal of Standards are not included in the felling licence, then if it were to be removed it would be a contravention of the Felling Licence and also the TPO. There is no reason to suppose it will be removed however.
It appears that works in this section are nearing completion, but there is still licenced works to carry out to the East of the footpath and in the plantation at the Eastern edge of the woods.
In terms of footpath blockage, some short term closures are likely to be unavoidable for health and safety reasons. These should be kept to a minimum and we would expect that the forestry operator would liaise with the KCC Public Rights of Way Officer over this. If you do have any concerns over this, and if the path is unnecessarily blocked, then they should be addressed to the rights of way officer in person as neither we nor the Forestry Commission have the powers to deal with blockages to rights of way.
With regard to damage or disturbance of wildlife, we have, as you may be aware, had the Police Wildlife Officer out to the separate burned section of the site last year. They found no evidence of harm (the bar is quite high on that one), and did not feel any action would be appropriate. The level of perceived disturbance in the current coppicing section is lower, and so I would not anticipate that we would consider involving them. Should you feel that at any time there is a strong case to do so, then you should contact the Wildlife Officer directly.
We understand that coppicing in areas of frequent public use often cause a high degree of local concern, sometimes warranted, and sometimes not, and as you are probably aware we have had concerns in the past on other sections of this site, and welcomed your input. Whilst we will continue to monitor this site on an ad hoc basis, we do have very limited resources and cannot over-allocate ours, or indeed those of the Forestry Commission to this one site. If any genuine areas of concern do occur, then please do not hesitate to contact us or any other relevant body as applicable as described earlier in the letter, but we will not be able to continuously attend where complaints are made about routine woodland management which is taking place.
Woodland management, especially coppicing, does significantly change the area affected in the short to medium term, but it is only through such work that the biodiversity and landscape value is maintained into the longer term.
I hope that this clarifies the situation. Hopefully this work will be completed soon.