Treetop people's protest "saves" three trees as Ribchester Tennis Club backtracks on controversial felling decision
A tennis club v. residents dispute over trees has split a Ribble Valley village.
Ribchester Tennis Club's decision to cut down six sycamore trees because leaves and moss were creating safety and maintenance issues on court sparked an angry community backlash.
Now, following a treetop protest, people power has won a reprieve for three of the trees which are sited along the edge of the playing field/recreation ground in the Ribble Valley village.
It was after passers-by spotted three of the trees being cut down last week that a hasty protest was arranged.
The following morning local residents Patricia Pinder and Glyn Shipman climbed two of the remaining trees, while a small group of other protestors gathered alongside to highlight their concerns about the impact losing the trees would have on local biodiversity and the environment.
Patricia said: "It's the impact on biodiversity that concerns me most. ..It made me incandescent. It's quite short sighted.This is COP26 in action - thinking global, acting local ... you need to be up a tree fighting for the environment. If the tennis club agree to rethink this there might be a way we can help them overcome their problems."
Glyn said: "These trees belong to the whole village and this is on the edge of a conservation area and there has been no discussion with the village. It's for the benefit of a very small percentage of the village who are in the tennis club,."
Other protestors on site included resident Marc Mallam who said: "Before you know it there's a whole load of biodiversity disappeared in the blink of an eye."
He also wrote a protest letter to the club asking: "Surely a leaf blower (which I am informed you have anyway) and a suitable spray for the moss would suffice? Even with these trees gone you will still have trees from the churchyard immediately behind the courts and the existing hedgerow anyway, so I very much doubt if the felling will actually make much difference at all."
Paul Yates, Green Party candidate in recent borough and general elections and a local resident, added that "alternative interventions" should have been discussed: "It just seemed senseless ... I want to try and get a dialogue going on it."
As news spread of the tree felling and protests grew Tennis Club chairman Jim Walker posted a message on Facebook to announce: "We have stopped works to fell the sycamore trees adjacent to the tennis courts and we will consider the options for the management of the remaining trees."
Jim complained of people leaving "barbed comments" on Facebook, making angry phone calls and ranting at his family, adding: "Ribchester Tennis Club is run by volunteers who are trying to do their best to provide safe, affordable tennis for 100 adults and children in our community who play regularly. Despite a lot of work from members to kill moss and clear leaves from the courts, large areas of our courts under the trees remain mossy, slippery and are at times unsafe .
"The surface of our courts under the trees is deteriorating rapidly and we will be lucky if we get half the design life from the last costly resurface. To make tennis accessible to our whole community we keep our fees amongst the lowest in the county. This means that we only have limited resources and we have to make our court surface last as long as possible.So for reasons of safety and to prolong court life the committee took the difficult decision to fell the trees. The work was approved by RVBC (Ribble Valley Borough Council) and the Playing Field Trust were consulted."
He said the intention had been to replace the sycamores, noting their "seed-keys burrow into the court surface" with "a well managed hedge of beech and oak" which he said, would in time. have provided equal biodiversity value and be carbon neutral adding "in fact carbon beneficial if the whole life carbon-cost of relaying the courts with increased frequency is considered".
Jim concluded: "But we have listened to those who have contacted us civilly and constructively and we've stopped the tree works."
The planning application, which Ribchester Parish Council did not object to, had noted: "Trees are to be removed because they provide no visual benefit, being unaesthetic trees covered in ivy."
This week Patricia welcomed the club's decision and said: "I believe this upsetting situation was due to the lack of a robust system to share information in the community. Communication is absolutely key to avoid situations like this which caused distress to both the tennis club committee who are all volunteers and to villagers who were genuinely distressed to see apparent random felling of healthy trees."