Trees have reached splendid maturity

Joseph Bulmer

SIR - A letter from the Yelland Enhancement Group in the North Devon Gazette (20 October) – which was followed by an article the next week - drawing our attention to proposals affecting a belt of trees beside the Tarka Trail near the old power station site (NDC Planning application 50125), and the air of uncertainty that now seems to surround its fate, has started some alarm bells ringing.

These trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders and they are considered to be of especial worth not only in their own right, but also for their aesthetic and amenity value. What is unclear is whether there is an intention to fell some of them in addition to the lopping that is necessary to prevent some of the trees from possibly interfering with power lines.

When an ‘official’ body wishes to act in a way that is likely to be unpopular, there are a few things to watch out for. Whether any of these apply here I do not know, but I sound the warning nevertheless.

First, there is a pretext for the intended action – which may be in part true. Hence, we are told that the action is necessary, not least in the interests of efficiency and cost-cutting, and so it will be good for us. What needs to be removed is rotten anyway. Second, there is a lack of clear information about the intended action, which makes it difficult for people to raise their legitimate concerns. The closing of the coal mines in the 1980s was a classic case of this.

And third, the action may take place not all at once, but piecemeal. This was actually how the dissolution of the monasteries happened under Henry VIII. To begin with it’s just a few, then a few more, and so on.

In my lifetime of fifty-odd years, there have been many examples of changes taking place in Britain that, now by common consent, were taken to excess. For example, too many railway lines were closed, too many historic hearts of cities ripped out, too many water courses straightened, too many miles of hedgerows and old orchards grubbed up. The extent to which these things took place – all at the behest of officialdom – was, to say the least, short-sighted.

The Yelland trees under consideration are a blend of a type of pine and a type of poplar/aspen, which is what gives the group much of its charm, particularly at this time of year. They were planted with foresight to screen some of the large power station, and today, 20 years after that edifice was demolished, the trees have reached splendid maturity. They are both unusual and prominent. It would be a sad irony if the power industry were now to set about destroying them.

It is generally true that woodland needs managing, and many of our country’s much-loved trees face various kinds of threat. But it should be horses for courses, and certainly not a sledgehammer approach in this case.

J D Collins, Yelland