ARBORISTS will survey and report on an ash dieback-infected ancient woodland at the centre of a row between a town council and a conservation group.

It is hoped the solution will bring an end of months of protests and legal wrangling over the management of Becky Addy Wood in Bradford on Avon.

The town council hopes an arborist and an ecologist appointed to conduct the survey will produce a two-year woodland management plan for the woods above the Avoncliff valley.

The Friends of Becky Addy Wood served a temporary injunction on Bradford on Avon Town Council at the Bristol High Court on Friday, February 10 without the council attending court.

They claim work to fell, lop and monolith trees affected by the deadly ash dieback disease is “totally unnecessary” and is impacting wildlife and the ecology of the woodland.

Forestry Journal: The remains of one of the trees felled in Becky Addy Wood. Photo: Trevor Porter The remains of one of the trees felled in Becky Addy Wood. Photo: Trevor Porter

After the temporary High Court injunction, all works on trees in Becky Addy Wood were prohibited. The two parties then agreed to stay proceedings in order to attempt to find a solution.

A Bradford on Avon Town Council spokesman said: “To avoid unnecessary legal expenses and to continue its long-standing effort to work in partnership, the Town Council proposed a way forward on Friday, February 17 involving the employment of two independent experts (and arborist and an ecologist) appointed by their professional bodies.

“With the High Court hearing scheduled for Wednesday, May 3 when the town council would have had the opportunity to contest the injunction, the proposal was accepted on Tuesday, May 2 and a High Court Order was issued on Wednesday, May 3.

“The High Court Order will require that independent experts will survey and report on Becky Addy Wood in their professional areas of expertise. They will then produce a two-year woodland management plan.

“Bradford on Avon Town Council will be responsible for the implementation of the plan over the next two years. Once the process of producing the management plan is complete, it is anticipated that the High Court will lift the injunction.”

A spokesperson for the friends said: “FROBAW has always regretted that it was necessary to obtain a High Court injunction in order to stop the continued felling/mono-lithing by Bradford on Avon Town Council of an unjustified number of ancient woodland trees which was taking place in Becky Addy Wood in February 2023.

“This felling was against the advice of two different tree surveyors who judged that the risk of harm to the public was “tolerable” - one of these was the town council ’s own surveyor (May 2022); the other was FROBAW’s Ian Monger.

“We had tried negotiation and mediation and the injunction was FROBAW’s last resort in trying to protect the woodland and its wildlife - including rare woodland bats - by ensuring that only those trees which pose a serious risk of imminent harm to the public on the public footpath are removed. 

“The injunction was extended by court order on the February 24 for 12 weeks - the town council had requested this shorter injunction period in order to ‘focus minds’ on negotiations to transfer the title of the wood to FROBAW. FROBAW presented a detailed proposal to the town council which was unfortunately rejected. 

“So, to ensure these irreplaceable ancient woodland trees, with their prime wildlife habitat, would receive continued protection from over risk-averse felling, but without the cost of the court micro-managing the injunction, a variation plan was agreed and endorsed by court order.

“We are glad that the town council and FROBAW will be working together in this way to protect this beautiful and unique ancient woodland.”

This article originally featured in our sister title, the Wiltshire Times