Bid to save city centre woodland

Freemans Wood
Freemans Wood

THE owner of Freemans Wood in Lancaster claims that a “reasonable person” would not consider the area to be woodland.

The Property Trust Plc has lodged an objection against a Tree Protection Order (TPO) made by the city council in December which prevents the cutting down of trees on the site.

A planning proposal for the land, situated between St George’s Quay and Willow Lane, was submitted to the city council in 2010 and includes housing, office and leisure space.

The Property Trust built a metal fence around Freemans Wood in December, much to the dismay of local residents, who claim to have used it for recreation for more than 50 years.

Peter Yeandle, who lives near the site and has been visiting it for more than 15 years, said: “In putting up the fence, serious damage was caused to the trees. Despite the TPO, further damage was caused.

“It’s clear that the developers want to build on the site, so I am also seriously concerned at the poor conduct of development thus far undertaken.”

The Bermuda-based company, headed by a Hong Kong businessman, has objected to the TPO on a number of grounds including that the city council did not comply with regulations when making the order, and that the TPO is in conflict with the council’s policies for the site.

It also claimed that Freeman’s Wood, identified as such by Google Maps, would not be considered woodland by any reasonable person.

In a report which will go before Lancaster City Council’s appeals committee on Monday, Maxine Knagg, tree protection officer at Lancaster City Counci said the council challenged this view adding: “On the contrary, we would suggest it would be an entirely unreasonable person who could dismiss this area of trees in question, as anything other than a woodland.”

The report also rejected the other objections on various grounds, and detailed the definition of a tree as “a perennial plant with a self supporting woody main stem, usually developing woody branches at some distance from the ground and growing a considerable height and size.

“But for the purposes of TPO legislation the High Court has sought to apply the rationale that a ‘tree’ is anything which ordinarily one would call a tree”.

Mr Yeandle added: “The site was not only home to a diverse range of trees, plants and consequently birds and other small creatures, but a herd of deer who are now in visible shock.

“There was no notice, prior to the fencework, that the land was privately owned.

“I’m disgusted that an area, which the public have used as a leisure site for well over a half century, should suddenly be fenced off without warning and done so in such a malignent manner.”

Castle Ward coun Jon Barry said he fully supported the TPO and is currently preparing a town green application for the site.

Appeals committee members will be asked to consider the objections and decide whether or not to confirm the order.

No-one at The Property Trust was available for comment.