I was recently approached by a local resident who raised a number of issues with me about the work that had been carried out around Paul’s Pond. The issues raised were, in précis, as follows:
- Apparently healthy trees have been cut down
- The cut down tree trunks and branches have been strewn around
- There are now large gaps in the trees, there are cut–down tree trunks and branches lying everywhere
- Who is responsible for authorising this work
I have now received a reply from the Conservation Officer, Natural Habitats, Parks & Countryside who has advised me as follows:
“The tree work that has taken place at Breary Marsh, I would like to reassure, has been done as part of a programme to benefit both wildlife and visitors to the nature reserve.
Breary Marsh is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest – SSSI – (one of the country’s best sites for wildlife) and a Local Nature Reserve (a place where people can visit to enjoy wildlife). Unfortunately visitor usage of the site had, over the years, left the public bridleway in poor condition and becoming increasingly wide as people sought drier, less muddy routes on which to walk. While this has made access through the site difficult, it has also resulted in damage to the SSSI’s soils and vegetation as the paths get wider and increase in number. Leeds City Council has statutory duties for both maintaining the public right of way and enhancing the SSSI.
To remedy the situation Parks & Countryside have resurfaced the bridleway, making a better route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, and at the same time benefited the SSSI by reducing footfall through the vegetation. We have also encouraged people to use the bridleway by blocking desire lines with timber felled as part of the project. The vast majority of the felled trees have been sycamore, an undesirable species for this type of habitat. Perhaps it is not well known, but dead and decaying wood is an integral part of the woodland ecosystem providing habitat for many forms of life. The programme of works has been authorised and has the support of Natural England, the public body responsible for protecting and improving England’s natural environment. The work has also been undertaken with the approval of the Forestry Commission.
The tree work on the northern end of Paul’s Pond has been undertaken to maintain the integrity of the dam wall. By thinning the number of trees the potential for uprooted wind blown trees breaching the dam wall, and consequently damaging the site and harming visitors, is minimised.
Again I would like to reassure you that the tree work carried out has been undertaken to benefit both the wildlife at and visitors to Breary Marsh. While woodland management can initially look quite drastic I am confident that in a short time the felled timber will not be as noticeable and will provide a valuable contribution to the biodiversity of the site.”