Anger over Fritton woods tree felling plans

A DIRECTOR of the firm which owns Fritton Woods has reassured villagers over their latest tree-felling plans.

Newcombe Estates has requested a licence from the Forestry Commission to fell 20 acres of 60-year-old trees and replant with hybrid larch, its latest proposal coming just months after 22 acres of 58-year-old trees were chopped down – causing local dismay and anger.

The current plan, which would also see a further 170 acres – possibly one tree in five – thinned out has aroused suspicions among villagers who fear the site clearance is being carried out to make it easier to push through a quarry scheme for the woods.

However, Mathew Nottingham, finance director of the London firm, told the Mercury this week that the management of the forest, and the quarry application put forward by Bretts, the Kent-based aggregates company, were totally unrelated.

He stressed that the terms of the felling licences dictated that the trees had to be replanted within 12 months, the exact timing depending on a number of factors, including ground conditions.

The reason the trees were being felled was that they were reaching the prime age for timber.

Also it was the time when the trees became increasingly difficult to insure.

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Mr Nottingham said it would be in the hands of Bretts whether an appeal was made to Norfolk County Council over its decision not to include Fritton Woods among its preferred options for quarry sites.

Keith Nunn, chairman of the parish council, said: “We understand the natural harvesting of a commercial woodland, but would like to see signs of replanting the initial area, before endorsing the start of further felling.”

Rowland Dunn, 59, who lives next to the woods in New Road and was among the first villagers to start campaigning against the quarry plans, backed Mr Nunn in calling for replanting before the next felling.

He highlighted the seven-days-a-week importance of the woods for recreation and the fact it was also a wildlife haven.

Richard Warner, the Fritton campaign group’s tree expert, said: “In my opinion, although Newcombe Estates wish to sell the forest to Brett’s, which would make a good deal of money, they are also planning for the future without a sand and gravel pit by making these applications, which involve the planting of new trees for a more profitable future than mere Corsican pine pit props.”

In its fight to rule out a quarry, the parish council has gathered a large number of village green applications from people who have walked the woods for more than 20 years.

These applications will be submitted en-bloc in a bid to save the area as a local amenity.