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16th Apr, 2021

Public outcry after campaigners discover Piles Coppice subject to tree felling licence application

Editorial Correspondent 7th Apr, 2021 Updated: 7th Apr, 2021

ECO-CAMPAIGNERS petitioning to preserve an ancient woodlands on the Coventry border were shocked to discover a tree felling licence application on the Forestry Commission’s Public Register.

Coventry MP Zarah Sultana presented a petition to Parliament supported by 1,500 people opposed to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s new sustainable woodland management plans for Piles Coppice Wood, off the A46, near Binley Woods, including the felling of trees for firewood and creation of wider ‘rides’ or paths, in December 2020.

It was by pure chance when querying the promise of a public consultation on the woodlands that members of Coventry’s Tree Warden group recently discovered that a felling licence application had already been placed on the Forestry Commission’s Public Register for Piles Coppice.

This application allows members of the public to comment before a final decision on the management plan is reached over a 28-day period, ending today, Wednesday April 7.

But members of the campaign group were surprised they were not made aware or given advance notice of this, and have updated their original change.org petition here calling for urgent action.

Tree warden and eco-campaigner Ann Wilson, from Coventry said: “Zarah Sultana was told there would definitely be a public consultation. When we queried this we were told by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust that the Forestry Commission were conducting it and he gave us a reference number.

“When you get to it  on the Public Register, it comes up under the Rugby area and you would struggle to find it. If we had not asked we would not have known about it – and as a result people only have until April 7 to object.”

The petition has garnered support from more than 1,600 people.

A Forestry Commission spokesperson said: “We recognise that woods and forests are vital for wildlife, reduce flooding and provide a wealth of opportunities for people to connect with nature.

“In order to sustain healthy woodlands they need to be managed, and felling trees is an important aspect of this. We are considering Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s proposed management activities in Piles Coppice, with a decision to follow in due course.”

The Forestry Commission is considering Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s draft management plan and the integral felling licence sets out their proposed management activities in Piles Coppice for the next 10 years. The Commission says applicants must demonstrate that their proposals are UK Forestry Standard compliant and plans are considered against UK Forestry Standard.

Tree wardens and countryside conservationists in Coventry and Warwickshire say carbon rich trees – some more than 500-years-old – and wildlife at Piles Coppice are under threat by felling. Their studies are based on historical evidence from Warwick Records Office written around the time the Woodland Trust bought the wood and nature surveys carried out during the last two years.

They have  recorded 27 species of tree, some rare, many ancient and veteran, more than 100 plants, more than 30 birds including Leaser Spotted Woodpecker and four different Thrushes, bats, 17 types of butterflies including the Purple Emperor, around 138 types of moths, some thought to be extinct in Warwickshire and one rare Red Data Book, nearly all living in the canopy of the threatened trees.

There is also fungi too numerous to count, some not recorded in Warwickshire before, including one rare type previously only recorded in Hampshire.

The environmentalists have sought advice from local wildlife experts, members of the Ancient Tree Forum and top ecologists at Oxford University. Recently a Warwickshire moth expert, who is “very concerned about the proposed management”, told them 52 species of moth are declining in Warwickshire due to woodland clearance.

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