PROTESTERS are today desperately trying to stop Bradford on Avon Town Council from pollarding and coppicing 17 trees in the ancient Becky Addy Wood.

The council has sent in a team of up to seven tree surgeons to begin what it says is “urgent work” to ensure the safety of those enjoying the woodland which dates to Saxon times. 

Around ten members of the Friends of Becky Addy Wood are trying to negotiate a week’s delay with the council’s green spaces officer Chris Hogg.

FROBAW’s spokesperson Lou Barry said she was “appalled” the council intends to pollard the trees while the Friends are in negotiations to buy the wood.

“It is just appalling. We are here with Chris Hogg trying to negotiate a week’s delay.

"We are in negotiations with the council to buy the wood. We now have limited company status and are negotiating the purchase price.

“We have been told we won’t have to pay back the £5,000 grant from the Area Board and the £3,000 grant from Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust that were given when the council originally acquired the wood with our help two years ago.”

The council conducted a tree survey last October which showed that up to 152 trees identified for felling are suffering from ash dieback disease or pose a safety risk to people walking through the wood.

But FROBAW campaigners say the work will cause “irreparable damage” to the wood and that the tree survey was conducted at the wrong time of year.

They say the council has ignored the advice of the UK government, the Woodland Trust, UK Wildlife Trusts and the Tree Council, all of which advise summer surveys.

The threatened ash trees also provide a habitat for endangered wildlife, including the very rare Bechstein’s bats which have been found living in the wood.

A Bradford on Avon Town Council spokesperson said: "The town council will carry out tree works necessary for public safety along the footpath and the road. 

"It is crucial to carry out this work as 17 trees have been identified as an immediate risk. 

"The town council will only carry out the work now necessary to make these trees safe, which means coppicing or pollarding. 

“These are recognised methods of tree management and enable the tree to regenerate where possible. 

"To ensure there is no harm to wildlife, the town council has arranged for an ecologist to check every tree before any work is undertaken. 

"Bradford on Avon Town Council has not taken this decision lightly. Having declared climate and ecological emergencies, it recognises the value of trees and the appropriate management of the ancient woodland."

The town council says it is legally responsible for maintaining public safety on the land it owns. Ramblers and dog walkers use the wood.

The spokesperson added: “The Town Council has considered the best plan for managing ash dieback to ensure public safety and the health of the woodland. 

“In developing this plan, the Town Council has consulted with ecologists, arborists and scientists who have praised this innovative and environmentally-sensitive approach.

“The plan means that the town council will undertake minimal and necessary work to ensure and protect the natural value of Becky Addy Wood for future generations. 

“The council has contacted Natural England, the Forestry Commission and Wiltshire Council who are aware of how and why these urgent works are taking place.”