Recent tree works at Warwick park sparks backlash

The Friends of Priory Park group say its concerns over work over the years have not been taken as seriously as it would like

The recent tree works at Priory Park. Photo supplied

Recent tree cutting and other works at a park in Warwick has sparked criticism and backlash from the park's Friends group.

Warwick District Council (WDC) was spotted doing tree work at Priory Park.

The council says most of the work done at the park this year and in previous years have been to help 'keep the park safe for users' - but the Friends of Priory Park (FOPP) has said the works were in parts inappropriate or unnecessary.

The recent tree works at Priory Park. Photo supplied

Jerry Birkbeck, chairman of Friends of Priory Park, said: "The FOPP was established more than 12 years ago, with a remit to work with the owners of the park, Warwick District Council, to 'ensure the continuation of the Park as a maintained but unmanicured recreational area in the heart of Warwick'. That is still our remit.

"This we do and were instrumental in setting up the five year management plan.

"However, several of our concerns over the years have not been taken as seriously as we would like. The final phase of the management plan is a case in point.

"A planning application was submitted by WDC's green spaces team for the felling, coppicing and clearance of some areas of underplanting.

The recent tree works at Priory Park. Photo supplied

"FOPP arranged a site meeting with officers from the green spaces team in August 2020 and specifically raised our misgivings over the proposed felling and coppicing of areas of tree cover on and around the higher ground of the park.

"We could see no value in removing some of the trees or necessarily coppicing them.

"The cover and interest provided not only a habitat to encourage biodiversity but also for young children to discover the delights of play in an establishing natural environment.

"Although these comments were 'taken on board' they were ignored.

"The approach taken by WDC is seemingly failing to understand the historical significance of Priory Park and the statutory protection that it presently enjoys.

"We are well aware that the approach adopted by WDC in respect of tree felling and clearing brash is standard practice in woodland management.

"However, Priory Park is not a woodland but an historic landscape and the actions taken are entirely inappropriate.

"WDC appear to forget that they have a responsibility for safeguarding historic and protected landscapes, which of course Priory Park is.

"WDC needs to recognise its role as the guardian of historic landscapes within its remit and take account of local concerns to ensure that Priory Park retains it character and significance as a vital open space in the centre of the county town.

The council has responded to the group's concerns about the recent work.

A spokesperson from Warwick District Council said: "Warwick District Council’s green space team has been working closely with the Friends of Priory Park for a number of years and as on previous occasions is planning to meet with Friends’ representatives to discuss the work currently being undertaken and address any concerns the group may have.

"This is the fifth year of tree management works which have been agreed with the Friends.

"A majority of the work is led by the need to keep the park safe for users, this has included removing trees which have been damaged by squirrels and have become unstable.

"Careful tree management means that coppiced trees will regenerate from the cut stumps to create an understory.

"The cut trunks and branches have been used on site to create dead hedges which will improve biodiversity.

"Biodiversity is at the forefront of the works the council does in our parks and woodlands creating a sustainable habitat for insects , birds and mammals and helping the flora and fauna to regenerate as part of our commitment to tackling the issues around climate change and the environment."