Forestry England mulls scaling back Slap Bottom tree-felling after protests

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Forestry England’s New Forest operation is based at Queens House in Lyndhurst

FORESTRY England is considering scaling back a controversial tree-felling operation which sparked protests from villagers and an intervention from a government minister.

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Residents living near Slap Bottom, a belt of trees just south of Burley, were upset at licensed plans to chop down up to 220 trees, claiming it would cost habitat and hinder efforts against climate change.

After lobbying New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne, a pause was secured in the operation late last year on instruction from Defra in London.

Last week talks were held between Deputy Surveyor Bruce Rothnie, who is head of Forestry England in the New Forest, and parish councillors.

John Carter is one of the Slap Bottom protestors

According to chair Cllr Philip Daubeney, Mr Rothnie promised to look again at the scale of the project, which is meant to protect valuable heath from the encroachment of woodland.

Cllr Daubeney said: “We were saying to them that residents nearby feel very upset. They love the wood and those mature Scots pine. Forestry England have not made a sufficient scientific case to chop them down.

“Perhaps it’s to do with Brexit, but people will not accept that the ‘man from the ministry’ knows best.”

Slap Bottom
Trees at Slap Bottom were felled before the intervention of environment secretary Theresa Villiers

He added: “Mr Rothnie promised that he would tell me when they have decided to change the scope or not, and if they decided to start felling again. He offered to meet the local residents and walk over the site himself.”

A Forestry England spokesperson said: “Our recent meeting with Burley parish councillors about our important work to restore the habitat at Slap Bottom has helped to clarify their concerns.

“We will visit the site with them and local residents and consider if any further refinement of the work could be considered.”

As reported in the A&T, Forestry England’s activity received support from conservation group the Friends of the New Forest.

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