Save Our Elms!

A petition calling on the gov to step in and save what is believed to be one of Europe’s last elm tree tunnels has reached over 6,000 signatures.

The petition comes after a decision by the Planning Committee to approve the removal of some of the trees to allow for an entrance to Ballavarvane Farm to be altered.

The issue was raised by Manx Wildlife Trust on Wednesday evening when it criticised the decision to fell which it said it a ‘registered woodland with trees over 100 years old’

MWT added: ‘The proposal to create large visibility splays on both sides of the road were approved in May. The Isle of Man has the largest remaining field elm populations in Europe, and so is considered internationally important. Elm tree lined roads would once have been a common sight throughout the continent. Now one of the last could soon be felled.’

However, the committee approved the application (20/01215/B) to remove a total of 25 trees on the Braaid Road. In the planning officer’s report to the committee, they said: ‘A revised Planting Proposal dated 25th March, 2021 has been submitted which aims to mitigate the removal of significant medium and large sized trees as part of the proposal and aims to mitigate the short term visual impact and loss of canopy cover as well as providing long lasting tree cover (100 years +). 

‘It describes the existing tree cover as being from elm with some hawthorn and the current health of these suggests that deciduous broadleafed tree species will successfully establish in this area. They propose the introduction of 44 alnus glutinosa (alder), 16 Quercus petraea (Sessile oak), 120 Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn), 120 prunus spinosa (blackthorn), 4 Quercus cerris (Turkey oak), 9 Corylus avellana (hazel), Tillia cordata (small leaf lime) at one per area, Acer platanoides (Norway maple) at two per area, an additional 2 per area Alder, 25 Populus tremula (European Aspen), 11 Betula nigra (River birch) and provide aftercare and planting guidance.’

That report also includes comments from the Arboricultural Officer of DEFA who said that the trees are ‘a good quality group that form an attractive green tunnel as you travel down the A26’. However he went on to add that ‘the work will have an impact on the landscape however the mitigation planting will improve the area in the long term.’

In their conclusion, the planning officer said: ‘The proposal is considered to be justified under General Policy 3f of the Strategic Plan and whilst the proposal would result in the loss of mature trees which is contrary to Environment Policies 1 and 3, the improvements in highway safety together with the proposed replanting scheme is considered sufficient to warrant approval of the application.’

Petition

However, since MWT’s post on Facebook, Devon Watson created the petition which calls on DEFA to overturn that decision to protect the trees. This would be in the power of Environment Minister Geoffrey Boot as he has the power to overturn a committee decision. 

At the time of writing that petition has over 6,000 signatures with people commenting, both on MWT’s post and on the petition, that they are disgusted by the decision. The campaign has also attracted celebrity support as TV presenter Chris Packham tweeting to criticised the decision and called on it to be reserved. 

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