Environment Minister Geoffrey Boot has said he will engage with a landowner to seek alternative solutions to access problems for their property which would not result in the loss of history woodland as he is ‘not comfortable with the avoidable loss of any trees’.
Over 11,500 people have signed a petition calling on the gov to step in to save what Manx Wildlife Trust said is ‘one of Europe’s last elm tree tunnels at St Marks‘.
In a statement tonight, Mr Boot said: ‘I understand public concern regarding the Elm tunnel in St Marks. I would, however, reassure the community that the current proposals do not threaten the vast majority of the 350 mixed trees which make up the tunnel. Following intervention by forestry officers, the original planning application was revised, reducing the number of trees being requested for removal from 52 down to 25. I was also relieved and encouraged to note that the applicant agreed to the compensatory planting of over 350 saplings and large trees.
‘Given that no objections or an appeal was made in connection with this application, I regret I have not previously been involved in the decision, which was taken by the Planning Committee. I am not comfortable with the avoidable loss of any trees and therefore I have now approached the applicant to seek a discussion on a range of other options which could be considered to help address the access issues which they have experienced at their property. Government greatly values the island’s tree population, both for their landscape and biodiversity contribution and for their role in contributing to achieving our net zero emissions target by 2050. This is why we have planted over 100,000 trees in the last 12 months and take a very proactive stance in trying to protect our unique population of Elm trees from Dutch Elm Disease.’
Earlier today, Planning Committee chairman Martyn Perkins MHK had said the decision to cut down the trees was ‘unfortunate’ but ‘necessary’. Whether Mr Boot will be successful in his talks with the landowner remains to be seen, but his decision to step in and state his intention to protect the Elm trees puts political pressure on what this morning seemed like an uphill struggle.=