United Utilities defend action to destroy woodland between Burnley and Bacup (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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United Utilities defend action to destroy woodland between Burnley and Bacup
A HUGE expanse of forest has been felled at a beauty spot leaving behind ‘a desolate wasteland’.
Around 15,000 trees covering 30 acres have been cut down on land by Clough Bottom reservoir, between Burnley and Bacup.
United Utilities said an ‘entire plantation’ of 50-year-old conifers had been removed, but the ‘dramatic’ work had been done to improve both public safety and the local landscape.
But walkers and local residents have criticised the decision to destroy the woodland.
The company said it plans to replace the missing trees with native species including oak, birch, rowan, alder, hazels.
Scots pine trees that had grown in the area have not been removed as they are a native species, and these will remain scattered about the landscape.
Walker David Mumford said: “I think it’s a terrible shame. It was a really nice woodland walk.
“I walk through these hills quite a lot. I didn’t know it was going to happen. I saw some had come down by the side of the river then suddenly they’ve all gone.
“Certainly, I’m sure it shouldn’t have been done. The new trees will take a long time to grow back.”
Joan Harrison, 87, said she remembered the trees first being planted.
She said: “I was born in Waterfoot. We saw them when they were planted. It was really nice when the trees were there.”
Her husband John Harrison, also 87, added: “If they’re planting oak it’ll take a long time to grow, so the forest won’t grow back very quickly.”
But some were more sympathetic about the decision.
Julie Nield said: “At the end of the day they had to do it if it’s better for the environment.
“You can see for miles now, but we did wonder what effect it’s had on the wildlife.
“At the moment it looks a mess. It will take years to get established, but it will do.”
And Heather Dearden said: “I’ve read that they’re replacing it with native trees so that’s fair enough, but it’s a shame it’ll take so long to grow back.”
Her husband Barry Dearden said: “I understand why they’re doing it, but unfortunately it looks horrendous now.
“It was just a bit of a shock because we didn’t know what was happening until it happened.”
Sean Serridge, deputy leader of Rossendale Borough Council, said: “It’s a lovely area, and one of our many wonderful entrances to the borough.
“It’s nice that the reservoir can now be seen from the road, but gutting that so many trees have been cut down.
“I can understand why United Utilities have felt the need to do this, but I fully understand why so many people are upset."
County Councillor Marcus Johnstone said: “I am sorry to hear this. I’ve seen what United Utilities have done elsewhere and it does look terrible.
“I can see why they’re doing it, but it’s a shame that it’s such a mess while it’s happening.
“It’s going to take years and years and years to grow back so I have sympathy with the walkers.
“The answer is probably that we shouldn’t have planted fast-growing conifers in the first place.”
United Utilities spokeswoman Polly Rourke said: “There are a few reasons why we have decided to do this. The main one is that the plantation was very susceptible to wind-blow. This means that trees regularly fell over in high winds.
“There is a woodland trail through the plantation, and, despite notices warning people of the dangers, it is still well-used. We felt for the purposes of public safety, felling and re-planting the trees was for the best. It was also an unnatural feature in the uplands.
“We realise the immediate effect of removing the wood is very dramatic.
“It will probably be about ten years before the new woodland really begins to take shape, but it shouldn’t be too long before you start to see it emerging.
“We feel sure the landscape around Clough Bottom will soon be much more pleasant place to look at and visit, plus will be a haven for a much more varied community of wildlife.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Wildlife Trust said he supported the decision by United Utilities.
He said: “Conifers aren’t native trees. The majority of conifers that were planted in this country were planted for timber.
“They’re also quite unstable trees. They fall over when it gets quite windy.
“In a conifer forest nothing else grows, but with oak and birch and other native trees there’s a much wider variety of plants and animals and insects.
“In the short term there could be a problem for wildlife but in the long term it helps native wildlife.”
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