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There has been an angry response to plans to cut down historic trees in Melksham House as part of the campus redevelopment.
Wiltshire Council say the trees need to be cut down because they are in poor condition or diseased. But the Melksham tree warden says the trees can be saved and has opposed their removal.
Critics have condemned the plans and the fact that Wiltshire Council has given itself planning permission, despite the objections from tree experts.
As part of the campus plans, planning permission has been given to fell two ancient trees, including a Lawson cypress tree, located near the entrance to the site, despite an appeal from Melksham town councillors for a reprieve.
This month, planning permission has also been granted to fell a further three trees – a Scots pine tree located next to the listed stone wall that borders the campus site and Place Road; a black pine tree near the car park; and a Norway maple tree located near the bowling green, which was planted in memory of Avon worker, Geoffrey Baines.
Maps of the proposed tree felling can be seen on page 22
The council’s application describes the black pine and Norway maple as being in a ‘poor/moribund diseased’ condition; and explains that the Scots pine needs to be felled to allow repair work to be carried out on the listed wall.
However, the decision to fell the three trees goes against the advice of the town council’s tree warden who recommends that all three trees be saved.
And Wiltshire Council’s decision has been blasted by local campaigners.
Robert Dickenson said, “ It’s sad to see that the council has been given permission to fell three trees on the site. The first, a 160 year old Scots pine, the second, a landmark 18 metre black pine tree. The third, a Norway maple – planted to commemorate an Avon worker – Mr Geoffrey H Baines – who completed 47 years of service between 1932 and 1979. I wonder if the family have been informed?
“I wonder whether or not your readers were made aware of the application. It certainly sets a precedent to fell other trees during the campus works…will they re-submit the application and allow the public to comment in a proper manner?”
Melksham Town Council’s tree warden also questions the ‘diseased’ status given to two of the trees.
The tree warden’s report says, “Unfortunately the nature of the disease referred to in the application has not been disclosed, which is important to have when deciding how best to respond to this request.”
This isn’t the first time that Wiltshire Council has come under fire for cutting down trees.
In 2017, the council proposed to fell all 25 of the iconic Lombardy poplar trees that line the King George V playing field, after the council said they were ‘a risk to public safety’ and in poor structural condition. However, an independent survey by the town council concluded that Wiltshire Council’s survey was wrong – resulting in just three of the trees being felled.
And in 2018, Wiltshire Council was named as one of the worst local authorities for tree-felling, chopping down 4,778 trees in a three-year period, second only in the country to Newcastle City Council.
Cllr Allison Bucknell, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “Permission has been granted to fell these trees and the representation received was taken into consideration during this process. However, whenever we decide to fell trees it is never done lightly and all other options are explored before we make that decision.
“In this instance we sought as much advice as possible and it was agreed that some trees unfortunately had to go. Some of the trees required to be felled are diseased and need to be removed as they are safety concerns. One of those, a commemorative Norwegian Maple, will be replaced and its plaque reinstated on the new tree.
“One Scots Pine tree at the Place Road boundary has to be removed in order to repair a listed stone wall – this is of course regretful but unfortunately there isn’t any other options.
“As part of the Melksham Community Campus programme we are planting an additional 42 new trees across the site and more than 1,300 shrubs. It is always the last option to fell trees but we hope the overall site, when completed, will be picturesque and in keeping with the historic parkland setting, with the type of scenery that we know so many people admire.”