Join us today

Could you give £5 a month to help protect once plentiful wildflower meadows or woodland butterflies under threat? Our work to protect our local wildlife has never been more important.

Join us

Two Rivers Way, Newbury: statement from BBOWT

Thursday 9th February 2017

Crack willow (salix fragilis). Photo Brian Eversham

BBOWT owns about a hectare of land, mainly woodland, south of Two Rivers Way in Newbury. The land, which is near to where the River Lambourn and River Kennet meet, is dominated by mature Crack Willow trees.

In June 2016, BBOWT’s Tree Safety and Woodland Officer identified a number of Crack Willow trees as posing a significant risk to people and their property, including the adjacent houses in Two Rivers Way, an electricity sub-station and the busy Hambridge Road. In order to reduce the potential impact on nesting birds and roosting bats, and to ensure regrowth in the summer, it was decided that the best course of action would be to fell the trees in winter.

BBOWT arranged for a contractor to carry out the work because of the size and nature of the trees, and the proximity to the public areas including the Hambridge Road. A member of BBOWT staff visited the houses immediately opposite where the work was to take place to inform residents of the plans. The work to fell the trees and make them safe was undertaken shortly afterwards on 13 December 2016. In total, 14 large trees were felled, covering about 0.25ha.

At the time BBOWT contractors carried out the tree safety work, in December 2016, we were unaware that the woodland is part of a conservation area. There are no ecological designations on the woodland. The Local Authority conservation area status predates the housing development by Trencherwood Homes Ltd in 1997. When the site was transferred from Trencherwood Homes Ltd to BBOWT in 1999 neither party was aware of the conservation status, despite the normal due diligence processes which were carried out by the respective solicitors.

If BBOWT had been aware of the conservation status we would have applied to West Berkshire Council for permission to carry out the work. BBOWT and the Council are due to meet later in February to discuss the current situation.

Alex Cruickshank, Senior Land Manager for the Trust, said: “I am very sorry that this tree felling work upset local people. We did call round to explain the reasons behind the work, and I am sorry that we did not get to speak to everyone. This work was absolutely necessary. The trees felled were rotten in the middle and as their name suggests Crack Willows are well known to break unexpectedly; we couldn’t risk that happening in this residential area next to a busy road.

“I can understand why local people are upset. I have since written to them all and met with a couple of residents to explain our actions. We have offered to undertake further clearance to make the site tidier, and we will give the residents more notice of our proposals in the future. I am confident that this area will regrow during the spring and summer to form a dense thicket of young willow, which we can manage in future without the major works required last December. This young willow will provide a much better screen against the road as well as creating more homes for wildlife.”

Both West Berkshire Council and BBOWT are committed to looking after the countryside. However, it appears that BBOWT has made a genuine error on this occasion. We are now in discussion with the Council to help strengthen our processes regarding protected land such as conservation areas and tree safety to ensure that this does not happen again.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this, please contact Alex Cruickshank, Senior Land Manager for Berkshire, at the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust