Will the veterans have their day?

A big decision faces Nottingham City Council’s planning committee this afternoon. Do they approve the University of Nottingham’s plan for a new £2-3 million sports centre as it is?

On the face of it, it sounds an easy decision. New investment, an “international level” sports facility and additional space for exercise and recreation. Everyone wins. Except they don’t.

If this proposal gets the go-ahead, it would mean the end of the road for three veteran oak trees, estimated to be between 200-450 years old that are currently (literally) standing in the way of the new facility.

Two of the veteran oak trees under threat from the new sports centre development.

Two of the veteran oak trees under threat from the new sports centre development.

What’s the issue?

The University of Nottingham expanded into the University Park campus, land given as a gift by local entrepreneur Jesse Boot (of ‘Boots’ legacy), in 1928. The surrounding area comes with a plentiful history of ancient mediaeval deer park, woodland and veteran tree cover, with neighbouring Wollaton Hall even forming the southern extreme of the original Sherwood Forest.

The University embraced their new location, establishing links with the local Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, winning Green Flag after Green Flag and were even named the “most environmentally friendly campus worldwide” in 2013.

Unfortunately none of this heritage and good work has stopped the University putting in a planning application for a new sport centre that would destroy three veteran oak trees.

What would David do?

It’s important to appreciate the value of ancient and veteran trees. Thousands of species depend on them to survive. The older the tree, the better the quality of wildlife associated with it. Because of the general scarcity of these trees in the countryside, many of the species that depend on them feature in Red Data lists and are nationally rare.

The Oakbug Milkcap, one of numerous fungi that thrive with veteran oak trees.

The Oakbug Milkcap, one of numerous fungi that thrive with veteran oak trees.

These three trees in question are veteran oaks. They stand within 500m of four ancient trees, each representing the future and offering the closest potential replacement habitat for any rare species associated with decaying wood habitat, aging bark and old root systems.

Indeed, wildlife expert Sir David Attenborough, who holds an honorary degree from the University, has this to say:

Ancient trees are precious. There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism.’

We haven’t been able to reach Sir David, but we’d love to know how he feels about the University’s plans.

The Council’s planning committee has a very important decision to make tonight: to determine if the loss of these trees is outweighed by the gain of a new sports centre.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Details contained within the planning application show that the building of the sports centre could go ahead without the loss of these trees. All it would take is the reduction in the number of badminton courts currently proposed, from 20 to 16.

Of course the University doesn’t want to alter its plans and delay getting the new building up and running. But if it thinks about the devastating loss that would be caused, is it really too much to ask?

We’re lobbying both the planning committee and University of Nottingham’s Vice Chancellor, David Greenaway, to make the right decision, and save these trees. Let’s hope sense and reason prevails.

In the meantime, why not sign up to support our campaign to give all trees of special national interest greater protection and recognition via our VITrees campaign.

*Update* The planning committee just voted 7-6 to save the trees! Thank you all for the support. More to follow.

Party political views and opinions as expressed in comments do not represent the views or opinions of the Woodland Trust, which is a non-partisan conservation charity. We encourage open debate. However, responsibility for comments made lies solely with individual contributors.

About Oliver Newham

Senior Campaigner Ancient Woodland
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Consultation, England, Local Government, Planning, Planting, Protection, woods, Woods Under Threat, WoodWatch and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Will the veterans have their day?

  1. Derek West says:

    So 6 Members of the planning Committee voted to destroy these ancient trees,what does that say about their knowledge of the natural world,that they are idiots i guess.

    • Oliver Newham says:

      I think there was a lot of pressure on them to push it through. We have to remember the University is a big local employer, the whole sports complex they have planned is estimated to bring £40 million of investment etc… so while yes six did vote the wrong way, our lobbying only started a few days before the vote, so very little time to convince them all about the importance of what would be lost.

  2. I was too late to vote to save the trees because I only had the e-mail on Thursday night. I am SO pleased the trees have been saved at such a small cost of a mere 4 badminton courts. What is the world coming to.

    • Oliver Newham says:

      Not to worry, the support is still very much appreciated. We’ll make sure to let everyone know with lots of time if the University do decide to appeal the decision, so we may well still need more help with this one yet!

  3. Derek West says:

    If the planning committee have any empathy with the natural world these wonderful and important trees will be protected,but don’t hold your breath.

    • Oliver Newham says:

      Thank you, they did. They just voted 7-6 to turn down the planning application and save the trees!

      • Ash says:

        That’s a very close call at 7-6! What does that say about the planning committee? It seems everything we do these days is too close to call! We seem to be constantly living on a knife edge!

        • Oliver Newham says:

          Yes, it was very close, but still a brave decision from those seven. I don’t know if you have seen but they have faced a barrage of attacks from the University since taking their stand. So yes, I’d also love it to have been more too, and I think given more time I’m sure we would have convinced more of them, but at this stage I’m mainly happy seven were willing to stand up for the trees!

      • david llewellyn foster says:

        Fantastic result, let’s make sure it sticks!

        • Oliver Newham says:

          Yes, we’re pushing for a meeting with the University to discuss this. I’ll do an update when we have more, but I do remain hopeful that they will be open to reviewing and revising so we see something put forward that has their new sports centre working in harmony with these trees.

  4. Jackie Laluvein says:

    Trees are living things too, they have a right to survive.

  5. richard markham says:

    I think both the council and the uni need be educated–obviously they don’t know what they are about to destroy–the planners should know better as well

    • Oliver Newham says:

      Thanks Richard, many within the Council and University are just as alarmed as we all are. The Council’s Tree Officer has objected, as has its Greenspace and Biodiversity Officer. We’ve also heard from both staff and students at the University that are upset about what’s going on. Friends of the Earth and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust have both objected, so there are others battling this one too.

  6. david llewellyn foster says:

    Hear hear!!

    This is about irreplaceable core values, but even more so about the intelligent recognition of the sanctity of biological continuity.

    Until it is actually made unambiguously clear, what is actually at stake, what is being undervalued and threatened with extinction, it is pointless to try to have an intelligent debate. The living context and rational ground for that discussion or conversation needs to be beautifully presented, with consummate art and enlightened conviction.

    • 4foxandhare says:

      I will share this on facebook on all relevant wildlife groups, and twitter. Unfortunately, few people will respond because they don’t seem to be able to grasp the importance of habitat, to the wild animals they seek to save.
      I agree david llewellyn foster, but do we have time to do that now?

      • Oliver Newham says:

        Thank you 4foxandhare, the support is really appreciated. Its really frustrating we found out about this one so late but there is still time. Even if the Council vote in favour of giving planning permission this afternoon, the University don’t have to go ahead. We can still put pressure on them to think again.

    • Oliver Newham says:

      Interesting point David and appreciate where you sympathies sit with this one. I do though think we should take the threats on as and when they become apparent. So yes higher level conversations need to take place, but at the same time we have to use the system as it is to try and stop the damage we are seeing on a daily basis.

      • david llewellyn foster says:

        Thanks for the responses Oliver & 4foxandhare, at least there is some healthy blood flowing through the body politic, still!

        Yes of course I agree, lets not confuse the planes here (no pun please…) In fact I see this not just as an ecological challenge, a critical planning issue, but as about recognition of a really vital principle, namely respect; and profound respect for authentic knowledge ~ knowledge of living organisms and the undefiled sanctity of flourishing biodiversity.

        So it is also therefore a question of design and how creative intelligence can be called upon to find really satisfying solutions to these ostensibly intractable problems, generally… how to deploy a wise but pragmatic approach to complex situations, that challenges assumptions and seeks to engage with truly innovative ideas.

        Ideas whose proper application fulfil all the necessary criteria: namely conservation, adequate and exemplary pedagogical facilities, economic constraints and architectural ingenuity; ie professional originality that explores habitat not only to be inspired by it, but also to work with it and within it, coherently and integrally…as a reciprocal organism, in a responsible, responsive way..

        If I was designing a new university (campus,) that is exactly what I’d be aiming for.

        In that sense I really do think this is about art, and the enduring nature of art. So yes, I believe we have all the time in the world, or rather ~ should act as though we do, in order to dilate the process, maximise the learning opportunity and save our precious trees.

  7. thehutts says:

    I hope the vote goes to protect the veteran oaks! Sally

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