As part of our commitment as a church to our environment through our involvement with the Eco Church initiative we are asked to look at our campaigning and political involvement. The issue below is close to my heart but I think will also be very close to all of yours.
You will I’m sure have noticed the enormous amount of road side tree feeling that has been taking place around the Island. What you may not know is how and why this is taking place and the arbitrary and undemocratic way precious oaks are being felled.
In Carters road the decision to cut down trees that are within 60cm from the edge of the carriageway has lead to the removal of over 8 large oaks. The first notice that a 120yr old strong and vigorous oak on the land of my father Miles Clarke was being measured for felling was last Monday when the neighbours heard the team saying ‘that one will have to go’. When they inquired the contractor said that they should have had a letter about the issue and on further investigation it seems that land owners were searched on land registry and if couldn’t be found the work continues on their land without permission. As Miles’ land was not registered no letter had been sent and no attempt made to take it further even though the tree is just 50 yards from a visible house.
Miles contacted the council and was told that the road had been redesignated as a relief bus route and by order of the council he had 7 days to comply with this trees removal or he would face legal action. A site visit confirmed this but the officer said casually that maybe in this case he could let it stand and just take a very large bow. The letter giving legal notice of removal arrived the next day!
There are so many things about this that affect us all.
1. The redesignation of roads without any local consultation or awareness of the consequences for the environment. (and on a much wider view our whole Island strategic plan)
2. The highways regulations that then seem to kick in a 7 day legal requirement to act that overrides all other protection procedures and environmental considerations eg bat and bird surveys.
3. The appalling lack of an attempt to contact landowners.
As you drive around these parishes look at the road side trees that you take for granted, the middle aged oaks that support over 250 different species. Know that they may be unprotected by their owners, the statutory bodies and the law. My eyes have been opened and I am shocked by the flippancy with which our concerns have been received and the treat of legal action and heavy costs implied and voiced. I thought that oaks were safe, in some way sacred in planning law and protected from careless landowners… this is not the case. Beware and be aware.
If you see trees marked in our parishes or hear the chainsaws in closed of roads go and question and let me know. We are going to take our concerns to the council in strong terms but we need people to join in. If you would like me to keep you informed about this let me know. We are planning a gathering at Upton Cross on Saturday (txt me if you want to know more) with our tree warden to chat about a way forward and a strengthening of protection at every level of the councils planning and it would be really really great for people to come so that the council can see that we are deeply concerned.
My grandchildren’s favorite book is The Lorax, the little person who speaks for the trees. Our precious irreplaceable trees really need us to speak now, this has to stop.
See this video, (the question was, ‘churches haven’t been great when it comes to environmental campaigning have they’ ?!)