A five-acre field covered in trees in East Carlton has been cleared in what villagers describe as an act of ‘environmental destruction’ after a bulldozer shredded the habitat.
The land is owned by the Church of England and farmed by a local family, who had been given permission to put the field into ‘long term meadowland’ under a Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) scheme.
But the Diocese of Peterborough had been working with the tenants to return the field back to arable use, and on Friday (April 8) contractors began.
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Villagers heard work but it wasn’t until they visited the site that they saw the level of destruction.
Bob Trevelyan said: “I assumed it was maintenance work but then we noticed they were going up and down, shredding everything, including some pretty big trees.”
Mr Trevelyan, 51, videoed the work and contacted North Northamptonshire Council and Northamptonshire Police.
He said: “I feel dismay. I’m disgusted. It’s shocking when you see such a large number of trees destroyed. We should be planting trees.
"We would like an explanation as to why they did this and what are their intentions. We would also like trees to be replanted."
Residents say that the trees described as ‘scrub’ by the diocese had been there for decades with established trees as tall as 30ft.
Under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 it is an offence to ‘intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built, or to intentionally kill, injure ... chicks or adults, or ‘intentionally destroy any eggs’.
A representative Carter Jonas, land agents acting for Diocese of Peterborough, visited the site yesterday (Monday, April 11) to speak to the tenants and tour the site.
Machinery used to clear the land was standing idle and hidden from sight in the remaining thicket.
According to Natural England, the UK ‘Bird Nesting Season’ is officially from February until August.
Advice from the Arboricultural Association recommends that site clearance should be done outside of the nesting season, adding that when vegetation clearance work has to be undertaken during the nesting season, a pre-works survey needs to be carried out by a suitably competent person.
Neighbour Lucy Haynes said: “It’s not about our view. It’s about the trees. It’s shocking.”
A spokesman for Northants Police said: “We received a call about people cutting down trees in the East Carlton Park area on April 9, just before 1.30pm.
“We advised the caller that we would be making the Council’s Environmental Health Team aware as this is their jurisdiction. The caller said he would also be contacting the council.”
A spokesman for the Diocese of Peterborough said: “The field at East Carlton was originally let as an arable field.
“Permission was given to put the field into long term meadowland under a Defra scheme.
“We have been working with the tenant to advise them of their farm obligations. The tenant has worked with the diocese to commission an ecology report from Tilhill (forest management specialists).
“The site was previously cleared in 2018. The ecology report describes the area being cleared as grazing land which has started to develop regenerating scrub since 2018. The area that has been cleared is young habitat and the works have been done in accordance with the report.”
Mr Trevelyan said: “I looked at the Diocese of Peterborough website and they are promoting woodland prayer walks. The hypocrisy is awful.
“The tenants are very upset that this has happened. They received an ultimatum to return it to pasture.”
On April 1, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called on the Government to work with faith groups to achieve net zero carbon.
In February 2020, the General Synod (the council that considers and approves legislation affecting the whole of the Church of England) voted to set a target for the whole Church of England of achieving ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2030.
A spokesman for North Northants Council said: “NNC were not made aware of this felling. As planning permission was not required for the felling of these trees, there was no requirement for the landowner to inform the Local Authority.
“If residents believe that trees have been felled without a felling licence, then they should report it to the Forestry Commission.”
Carter Jonas has been contacted for a comment.