Historic Ash Tree Felled by Developer

Ruddington residents overlooking the new Wilbur Chase development south of Musters Road are expressing their dismay that a large, mature tree next to the site has been chopped down today – despite their pleas to save it.

The historic Ash tree sat on the boundary of the field owned by village businessman John Hallam and the former green belt agricultural land next to it – upon which Avant Homes is now constructing 175 controversially approved new houses. Retention of this 17 metre tall tree was clearly shown on the developer’s original site plan (below) but, in May 2020, neighbours heard they intended to chop it down after all! This was despite the Arboricultural Statement on the Rushcliffe Borough Council (RBC) Planning website reporting that this was one of the 5 best trees on the development site and was a ‘Category B’ tree with a ‘High’ Amenity value ‘capable of making a significant contribution to the area for 20 or more years’.  Its structural and physiological conditions were both described as being ‘Fair’.

However, at the time, Avant Homes’ official explanation was: “We have consulted with a specialist tree surgeon with regards to a large Ash tree on the perimeter of the development site. The tree has been examined and found to have signs of decay and fungal attack and it has therefore been recommended for removal.” RBC’s Design and Landscape Officer subsequently visited the site to check on these claims and agreed that, in his view, the Ash was not as originally described. The tree was then recategorized as Category C and, due to its proximity to the planned new homes, recommended for removal. This has ultimately led to the felling of this much loved old tree today (Tuesday 24th January 2023).

The approved layout of Avant Homes’ Wilbur Chase development – showing the Ash Tree retained {top right of the site boundary}

Adam Wilkinson (who took the top photos for us) remains annoyed by the decision: “Avant Homes could have easily designed the layout to accommodate leaving the tree in place, but clearly they felt the need to squeeze in a couple of extra houses instead” he says. “What a crying shame that a huge mature Ash tree has been unnecessarily felled. The tree supported numerous wildlife species and no doubt helped to prevent flooding in that corner of the field.”

Neighbour Martin Breakwell agrees: “It’s disappointing to say the least that the tree has been removed. In my opinion it is a further example of the Local Authority using its powers to assist the Developer whilst disregarding the views of local people. I feel that Rushcliffe Borough Council has not adequately looked after local residents. Firstly, the lack of a robust Local Plan allowed the speculative development to take place at all – then it appears to have assisted the developer to maximise their return rather that protecting the interests of local people and the environment.”

Making reference to Avant Homes’ previously reported planning breaches at the Wilbur Chase site, Mr Breakwell adds: “The Local Authority seems to be able to devote resources to helping the developer but unwilling to enforce revised Planning Conditions relating to the number of houses that can be occupied before the Loughborough Road/Kirk Lane junction improvements are completed.”

The entrance to Wilbur Chase along Skylark Drive {All photos by Adam Wilkinson}

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