Woodland row after plans given green light

Fears have been raised for the future of an historic Northumberland woodland after plans were approved to chop down hundreds of trees.

By James Harrison
Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 5:42 pm
Stobswood resident Linda Porthouse.
Stobswood resident Linda Porthouse.

Brains behind the proposals for Grange Wood, which surrounds Stobswood village north of Morpeth, insist the felling programme will improve biodiversity at the site by opening up more land for growth and removing invasive species.

But families living nearby remain concerned about the impact the works will have on a landscape they say has become increasingly important to them since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Linda Porthouse, a former teacher whose home is just yards from the wood, said: “There’s no objection to thinning the trees and getting rid of some of the older and diseased ones, but this many trees being taken out isn’t going to leave much of a woodland.

“I know it needs managing, no one objects to it being managed, but it’s the severity of the management proposed.

“It’s been so important for our mental health [during the coronavirus pandemic], you could be having the worst day and then you come into the woods and the pressure just releases.

“We don’t want it to just become a park – we can go to Morpeth for a park.”

Under plans approved by Northumberland County Council earlier this year, permission has been granted to fell identified trees and use herbicides on certain invasive breeds to prevent regrowth.

According to a report prepared by Iain Kyle, a chartered forester with about 30 years’ experience in the trade and also the agent listed for the application, a total of 1,565 trees have been identified for the chainsaw.

Among the reasons listed are evidence of rot, “fire damage”, risk that particular trees could fall and block footpaths or roads and a need to clear space to allow more light on to the forest floor and room for other species to take root.

“If it’s not managed, it turns into a mess,” Mr Kyle added.

Woodlands have always been managed, I’ve done this all over the place and you treat each woodland differently and our client’s aim is to give something back.

“This woodland is protected, it’s an ancient woodland and all we’re doing is enhancing that woodland.

“I think people will be pleased with the job – it will look a bit devastated after it’s done, but give it a growing season and people will start to think it looks quite nice.”

A report by the county council’s planning department stated the scheme “will only remove trees that are at risk of causing more damage to the woodland if they remain in place” and keep the woodland “in a good and safe condition”.

A spokesman for the local authority added: “We are happy the case has been handled and a report will be going to the Local Area Committee in due course.”

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