Campaign to save Yelland trees

Joseph Bulmer

Locals fight to prevent power company from taking a chop

CAMPAIGNERS are battling to save a row of trees along the Tarka Trail at East Yelland.

They fear a group of around 50 “protected” poplar and pine trees on the edge of the Estuary Business Park could face the chop due to their close proximity to overhead power lines.

The group of locals and Tarka Trail users have leapt to trees’ defence, claiming the trees they have become an important feature and are of “vital” importance to the area.

Joanne Bell, of the Yelland Enhancement Group, said a North Devon Council planning notice made it unclear just how many of the trees would be lost.

“The notice was deliberately devoid of any relevant information – we don’t know if it’s 50 or 10 trees.

“This row of much loved trees is vital. It act as a formidable windbreak; gives walkers shelter in torrential downpours and respite in the hot summer months; acts as a noise barrier and visual screen from the adjacent industrial site; and helps mitigate the dust from lorry movements. Most of all, these trees are homes for nesting and roosting birds.”

David Jeremy, from Instow, said the trees were a “lovely feature” and very popular in North Devon.

“I think the plans to fell them are regressive in terms of our management of the countryside – something that is all too common around the country,” he said.

“Trees mop up carbon dioxide and birds roost in them. We need our forests and if you take down a lot of trees in one go, you’re adding to the problem.”

Fremington Parish councillor David Harris argued that the power lines could be moved underground to spare the trees.

“We can’t have all of England’s being taken down by power companies,” he said.

Fremington area county and district councillor Rodney Cann was asked by residents to visit the site on Friday morning. On listening to their views, he said: “In my opinion, any work to these trees should only be done on the grounds of safety or good tree management.

“They were originally planted to screen former power station and are now quite unique as it’s almost impossible to get large trees to grow in this area because of the prevailing winds, the climate and their close proximity to the sea.”

The 22-23-meter high trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) but tower over nearby power cables.

Exeter-based tree surgeons Hi-Line, have applied to North Devon Council for planning permission to carry out the work on behalf of Western Power Distribution, who are required by law to ensure trees do not interfere with power supply.

In a statement to planners, Hi-Line said it was tasked by Western Power to fell trees within falling distance of power lines but in an appraisal, Hi-Line recommend felling around 15 per cent of the row due to the presence of the TPO.

Irene Evans, corporate communications assistant at Western Power Distribution, said that 50 trees had been risk assessed and it had been found that seven need to be felled.

“Their condition and proximity to the 33,000 volts (between 15-22metres) make it necessary to carry out our legal obligations,” she said.

“We carry out an environmental impact assessment to identify any particular wildlife issues.

“WPD takes maintenance of its services very seriously and employs services of experts to ascertain safety of high voltage lines that would affected a high number of customers together with any wildlife issues that may arise.”

Members of the public have until Friday to register their representations with North Devon Council.