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Trees under threat, Graves Park Beck, Woodseats

Hi all, This application is outside our official area but on a key tributatory. The short version is 80+ people have objected to removing the protections on a large group of trees behind Chesterfield Road in Woodseats. One of the options put forward include full felling and replacement with saplings. See our detailed comment below.

Our Chair has reviewed the submitted documents and the public comments (67 so far 66 objecting) it seems the applicant has not explained what problems this application is supposed to address, giving rise to understandable speculation that the land owner has ambitions to build on some or all the land once the woodland has been felled, or at the veery least is seeking to enhance the views from the flats he is creating in the old cinema/office/restaurant building.   References to flood prevention are universally dismissed although some modest (little and often) woodland management is probably worth considering but is clearly not the owners preferred option. 

The most authoritative comment to my mind has been offered from Prof Ian Rotherham, a former Head of City Ecology and lead figure in the current project to restore the natural assets of adjoining Graves Park and its green corridor links He says:"The tree surgeon gives three options and the first one of clear felling and replanting seems unnecessarily impactful. He is correct that it would be good to get more light to the ground but that is easily achieved with selective thinning and coppicing - i.e., not clear felling.

The application doesn't note this, but the areas is formally designated in the Sheffield Nature Conservation Strategy 1991, as a 'Green Corridor' and 'Desired Green Corridor' and thus subject to appropriate conservation guidelines.

However, there are other issues and specifically the applicant has not submitted anything on the ecology or site history. The area is a habitat in itself - with birds and mammals certainly. But more importantly it functions as a significant green corridor between Graves Park and the open spaces of the Fraser Estate and down to the River Sheaf. Removal by clear felling would reduce biodiversity, reduce carbon capture and exacerbate downstream flooding. The site is certainly used as a green corridor by foxes, badgers, and roe deer and it is possible that there might be badger setts and fox dens actually in the area. There is a possibility of protected species like water vole along the stream but this is unlikely.

At the very least, there needs to be a proper ecological survey and at the appropriate times of year - for ground flora, mammals, birds etc. There also needs to be some assessment or comment on issues like carbon capture and flood water impacts - the latter especially so as we know this stream is very 'flashy'.

Overall, the area might benefit from positive conservation management but in order to do this, it requires a full ecological survey alongside a full tree survey and from these, a formal management plan. This can then be consulted on with local community stakeholders. A programme of limited selective thinning and coppicing with deadwood left on site would be beneficial. This would allow the woodland ground flora to recover and help stabilise the substrate.

Clear felling is unnecessary and the disturbance may destabilise areas leading to downslope erosion and pollution of the stream. Any management needs to be outside the bird breeding season - now from the end of February to August - and a strict legal requirement. The possible presence of badgers and bats also needs to be taken into account.

Ideally any work here should be embedded in our vision of the area being one of the green tentacles extending from Graves Park down the Cold Stream (nee Graves Park Beck) and into the Fraser Estate greenspaces downstream. A more holistic approach that engages the local communities could bring wider benefits.".

In summary, if you don't want to see a large woodland felled, please submit an objection.

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