A Leighton-Linslade environmentalist has spoken out about the "destruction" of around 20 mature willow trees at a site on the edge of town.
Claiming that the work being carried out by the Buckingham and River Ouzel Internal Drainage Board was "grotesque", Lucie Burgess remains unimpressed following the drainage board's insistence that the trees were merely being pollarded and not cut down.
And she sent the LBO a selection of photos of the work carried out so that readers could draw their own conclusions.
The willows were sitting on a meadow floodplain just north of the A4146 bypass, with Lucie claiming that there was "a noticeable reduction in the air quality" 1km from the site after the cut down material was burnt there.
Lucie said: "I noticed cars being parked in the middle of the land and the presence of bulldozers, and I witnessed mature willow trees being felled and large bonfires being lit to dispose of the felled trees.
"I found the scale of the destruction of these trees, with no regards whatsoever for local wildlife or local people, grotesque and upsetting."
Lucie, who has written to the drainage board to ask why the work was taking place, claimed: "Burning trees during a climate emergency is a disgraceful practice for which there is no excuse. Burning contributes to climate change, reduces air quality and is an unsustainable way of disposing of tree waste. A much more sustainable alternative – if you really do have a compelling reason to fell these trees, which I question – would be to mulch the waste and use it as compost elsewhere.
"To see this taking place around the time of COP26 was absolutely shocking."
She added: "This space is a nature reserve and is used by local people to walk their dogs, play with their kids and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. To see it being destroyed and burnt was grotesque and upsetting. To learn that this work was apparently being conducted by a public body was astonishing.
"We have so little green space left in and around Leighton Buzzard. Central Bedfordshire Council is allowing rampant development to happen everywhere."
A spokesman from the Buckingham and River Ouzel Internal Drainage Board, told the LBO: "The Board is fully conscious of its environmental responsibilities currently proscribed under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
"The River Ouzel is a Category 1, high risk watercourse, which requires some maintenance on an annual basis. It is part of a large flashy catchment that has property, infrastructure, productive land or on the floodplain, grazing. The length that the complainant refers to is in the 2021/22 works programme for desilting and is posted on the Board’s website. Notification to the Town Council and Central Bedfordshire Council had been carried out.
"Mature willow trees were not felled, they were pollarded, in line with discussions with Central Bedfordshire Council and confirm standard good practice for environmental benefit, also included within the Board’s Biodiversity Handbook. This technique is one of the metrics used to identify environmental good practice by the Association of Drainage Authorities. Pollarding involves removing the top growth of trees on a regular basis and allowing it to regrow.
"It is a known mechanism for prolonging the life of trees, particularly willows which are known to become brittle and for limbs to split off. Some trees were trimmed to allow safe machine access. Arisings are burnt on site and all necessary permits and exemptions are in place. No felling licence is required. Removal of the arisings would require additional fuel use and damage to wider areas of land."
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