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.
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.
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.