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Friday, April 16, 2021
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Campaigners raise alarm over Shrewsbury North West Road’s threat to ancient trees

Campaigners are raising the alarm over Shropshire Council’s plan to fell ancient trees to make way for the proposed North West Relief Road.

The Darwin’s Oak, referred to as T58 by the council, has already been marked for felling, even though the planning application hasn’t even been approved.
The Darwin’s Oak, referred to as T58 by the council, has already been marked for felling, even though the planning application hasn’t even been approved. Photo: Rob McBride

Better Shrewsbury Transport (BeST) has worked with tree experts to identify at least 29 high quality trees that will be among the hundreds axed if the road goes ahead, including eight veteran trees that are centuries old.

One of the trees, dubbed “Darwin’s Oak” by tree experts, is estimated to date back the Wars of the Roses in the 15th Century.

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Robin Mager, a spokesperson for BeST said: “We are shocked by plans to fell these ancient and irreplaceable Shropshire trees. Some were standing before Columbus set foot in the Americas and would have been at least 300 years old by the time Charles Darwin was walking through these fields from his home on The Mount nearby.”

The 29 trees including eight veterans are among many hundreds of trees that will be felled if the North West Road goes ahead. The Darwin’s Oak, referred to as T58 by the council, has already been marked for felling, even though the planning application hasn’t even been approved.

The alarm over Darwin’s Oak is being raised just weeks after a successful campaign to stop the felling of a much younger, 150 year old oak tree on Featherbed Lane in Shrewsbury highlighted the plight of Shropshire’s ancient trees.

Says Mager: “The Featherbed Lane Oak was a wake-up call for a lot of people. We know that trees are vital in the fight against the climate and ecological emergency and yet Shropshire Council is willing to axe them without a second thought.”  

Some Shrewsbury town councillors have stated that they will not support any applications for the removal of any trees in the town unless deemed absolutely necessary – the plans to axe hundreds of trees on the edge of town will put this promise to the test.

Documents submitted as part of the planning application reveal that around 10,000 tonnes of vegetation will need to be cleared and disposed of if the road is built. Most of this will be trees and hedgerows and it’s unclear whether the council has factored the CO2 implications of this disposal into their plans.

Mager added: “Not only do these trees provide a precious link with the past, they also support thousands of species that rely on the unique habitats they provide. A great many of these species are already rare and becoming rarer with every ancient tree that is felled. No amount of planting of new saplings can replace what will be lost.

“The most recent State of Nature Report showed that UK priority species have declined by an average of 60% since 1970 and that 25% of our mammals and nearly half the birds assessed are at risk of extinction. If we allow the North West Road to happen, we will be destroying the quality of our natural environment for ourselves and for future generations.”

‘Tree Hunter’ Rob McBride has joined the campaign to save these trees and said:

“This area of Shrewsbury is just so precious. In terms of a place for residents to escape for much-needed peace and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle. The views over Shrewsbury are unique. Incredible in fact. And combining this with a unique ‘Treescape’ this area is just too precious to destroy for a 20th century road scheme.”

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