Tree felling sparks protest at Atlantic Park site

Miranda Cox, Eric Birchall and protestors mounted a roadside campaign against the felling of trees a

Miranda Cox, Eric Birchall and protestors mounted a roadside campaign against the felling of trees at Moreton Woods in Clovelly Road, Bideford, on Monday morning. - Credit: Archant

Protesters rallied at the woodland opposite Atlantic Village where planning applications for a hotel and McDonald’s have been submitted.

THE felling of trees opposite Atlantic Village on the site of the proposed Atlantic Park development sparked a protest on Monday morning.

Around 15 campaigners gathered at the site in Bideford despite the rain to rally against the felling which commenced last week.

Two planning applications for the site are under consideration to build a 70-bedroom Premier Inn, a Brewer’s Fayre restaurant and a McDonald’s restaurant and drive-thru.

Miranda Cox, one of the organisers of the protest, said there was no need to cut down the trees, which consist of ash, conifer and oak.

She said: “In terms of commercial value they are of none at all, because they haven’t been maintained.

“It’s not only damaging the trees, but the wildlife on the site as well.

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“England has the lowest cover of woodland in Europe, and it’s really important for so many things from wildlife to controlling CO2 emissions.

“Trees are also really important with all the heavy rainfall we’ve been having; once they’re gone we’re going to see a lot more water running off onto the road.

“It is really cynical that this is being done when planning permission hasn’t even been granted for any development on the site.

“We don’t need a McDonald’s or any of it; it’s just going to take business away from the town.”

But Mark Prior, the Forestry Commission’s acting South West area director, said a conditional felling licence had been granted to the owners of the nine-acre site in October last year.

He said: “Under the conditions of the licence, the trees need to be replaced with broad-leaf varieties by June 2019, in accordance with good sustainable forest management.

“If the site is to be developed then it would need planning permission and any given by the local authority would override the conditions in the felling licence.”

Torridge District Council said although there were three felling licences which cover most of the site, it had served a tree preservation order protecting some of the site.

The preservation order controls the removal of the broadleaved trees along the southern boundary of the site extending 30m deep and running adjacent to Clovelly Road.

A spokesman for the council said: “The trees were planted, with finances from the Forestry Commission, to produce a commercially viable crop which would be harvested on maturity.

“In terms of the life of the plantation, the crop is considered as mature and the Forestry Commission has consented to its harvesting.

“The Forestry Commission’s decision was also influenced by the presence of Phytopthora ramorum, symptoms of which are present on the Japanese Larch, and the need to effect control of this notifiable disease.”

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