Axing of oak tree on Whitcliffe Common hits reputation of Shropshire Wildlife Trust

Today, Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) carried out its plans to fell an oak tree on Whitcliffe Common. The trust has reacted poorly throughout an affair that has divided our town. We need to learn the lessons from this.

For this oak tree, and the wildlife that sheltered in it, it is over. It has been felled. The freezing fog this morning was probably not the best time for all the bugs and beasties that live in oaks to find a new host. I guess they are now on their way to compost.

Before the felling

And now the oak has gone

This has been a difficult debate. I have said before that there should have been more consultation from day one. We need to think about how to manage precious resources such as Whitcliffe Common. We need to find a wider consensus on how to manage the precious environment we residents of Ludlow live in. That applies as much to our historic town centre as it does to the commons and the fields that surround our town.

SWT has not presented a coherent case for management of Whitcliffe Common. It has referred to an unpublished management plan that dates back nearly twenty years. The way we manage the environment has changed since then and the respect that all of us have for trees has grown. There is an urgent need for an up to date and public management plan for Whitcliffe Common.

Part of a belated case for the oak felling is that views from the parking bay on the road will be improved for disabled visitors. That’s a good argument we need to respect. But the word “disabled” is not mentioned in the two applications for tree felling. I have asked SWT to put forward plans for a disabled parking bay at the top of the common. I have yet to receive a response.

I am not sure that we can now trust SWT to do the best for environment – or even the disabled – rather take the easiest way forward.

I have asked SWT to set out in writing a commitment that the second, right viewed, tree will not be felled.

Today was a tree felling that went wrong. Trees need to be felled. That’s part of the long term management of woodland and commons. But in a sensitive location such as Whitcliffe Common, we need the highest standards. SWT hasn’t stepped up to that standard.

I have learnt many lessons from this controversy. I hope everyone else has, including Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

Friends of Whitcliffe Common press release.

Update 26 January 2017

Colin Preston, Director of Shropshire Wildlife Trust has confirmed that the second oak tree will not be felled.

Unfortunately, a number of the comments on this post from both sides of the debate were abusive. I have deleted the worst and will not allow further comments. This is unfortunate as this is a topic we should debate – but it must be a civilised debate.

14 thoughts on “Axing of oak tree on Whitcliffe Common hits reputation of Shropshire Wildlife Trust

  1. Wouldn’t it just be best Mr Boddington if you just kept your nose out of the business of looking after the common. The people who look after the common ( this includes my daughter) really do care about what they do. If you can do better, why not give one day of your working week to help out on the common ! If your the expert then look after the common, otherwise let SWT and the People who do a wonderful job carry on looking after the common. Of course, if your not worried about disabled people having views of the castle, then let’s plant more trees !

    1. You, Kevin are one rude and inconsiderate man with your criticisms of Andy Boddington.
      I know no person who is a public servant who keeps us informed and gets involved in community matters.
      Whether or not I believe the trees are worth a jot (come on they only trees for goodness sake, this is a not a person dying) – is not the issue.
      Your criticism is unwanted and unwarranted.
      Let us see you doing something for the community awareness instead of taking pot shots.

  2. My view is that SWT are caught between a rock & a hard place with this. It is not their job to manage the view, but as the caretakers of the common they have a responsibility to maintain an open space with respect to its public use. This therefore involves removing healthy trees or cutting back other vegetation to improve access and safety. However this is not the purpose for which SWT exists. I pay my membership so that SWT can improve the biodiversity of Shropshire and to help reverse the losses of wildlife. Practical conservation work includes removing trees or other vegetation where doing so increases the diversity of plant life, and thus increase the diversity of animal life. However cutting these oak trees on whitcliffe do not improve biodiversity, quite the opposite in fact. I am an ecology graduate with a fair bit of practical conservation experience and a member of SWT

  3. As 40-year member of SWT (and 20 of FOWC), I regretfully admit that both Trusts have behaved reprehensively throughout this whole oaks felling business. This could perhaps be expected of some of the FOWC committee members, but for SWT to back them up in the face of overwhelming evidence (supplied to them) that the whole planning application was rigged from the start and biased towards a ‘no objection’ decision by Shrops Council, is totally indefensible. I very much regret that I am ceasing my membership of both Trusts when subscriptions become due, and withhold donations to appeals, that I had planned to make this year.

  4. Gentlemen – and you are all blokes so far – please keep this debate civilised. Please avoid personalising it. Insults are definately out. When I next get into base, I will look at editing or removing some of these comments.

  5. The felling of trees is often a subject for contention. I don’t think it’s very useful to attack the very charities that are responsible for maintaining our precious common. If there were no ‘friends of whitcliffe common’ or SWT then this argument would be redundant as the land would be wild by now, or worse – Farm land! Woodland management involves the felling of trees! I don’t feel the natural beauty of the area has been degraded as a result of this felling. I still see a beautiful view spot surrounded by a lush and varied woodland that provides an abundant habitat for our local wildlife. And for this I am grateful to those that given their time, energy and skills to create this fantastic public space, which incidentally is there for ALL to enjoy. I am glad that those who are in a wheelchair will have the opportunity to take in the striking views that whitcliffe common has to offer. I find it to be poor and cheap tactics to try to turn on the very people that maintain it for us. This is just another reflection of the lazy politics that have become the norm in this generation of politics. It breeds indifference, discontent and hatred. Nothing good can from that!

  6. I should add, I think Kevin makes a good point. Instead of criticising those who are actually giving their time and resources to the good of the common perhaps you should go and get involved with either charity and donate some of your time. It’s easy to sit in the comfort of your armchair criticising the charities’ actions but get involved and you would have a greater understanding and personal investment in such issues.

  7. Perhaps the issue is, who decides that what these groups do is ‘good’? To what guidelines and rules do they work to?
    There is no moral high ground here, just because the space is maintained by volunteers. The tree was removed to ‘improve the view’. SWT only removed one to appease the Friends, without whom they would have no one to manage the space.
    Anything else is only an attempt at justification.
    Perhaps we need to investigate any planning anomalies, and act accordingly – accountability is the most important ‘lesson to be learnt’.

    1. You are quite correct. In fact there is a substantial litany of anomalies in this planning application and the way it was handled. Shropshire Wildlife Trust were made fully aware of all of these, which in fact resulted in creating a false decision. Sadly they chose to ignore all those anomalies and adopt the false decision as the true result. Accountability is the key as you suggest.

  8. Ernie and I just walked to the Common, surveying the scene. Worry not! An amazing view has been opened up! A full vista of Church and Castle now there for all to enjoy!

    Well done to Daffers and all the Friends of Whitcliffe!

    Now onwards to the next oak spoiling views northwards. Whip him off as well, please!

    1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but it is worth remembering that it is The Shropshire WILDLIFE Trust NOT The Shropshire VIEW Trust.

    2. Fully agree with you Clare, the other one needs to go. There is so much land to plant on that does not disturb the view.
      As for wildlife, beetles do not care which tree they climb up.

  9. Some of the people commenting are missing the point. It is the way the planning application was handled and lack of due process that has caused this controversy. If there had been full public consultation before the planning application had been submitted then Friends of Whitcliffe Common and Shropshire Wildlife Trust who were both aware that it would be a contentious issue would have been certain they had made the right decision, instead of now trying to justify their actions.

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