Reader’s Letter: Let’s plant some trees!

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There has been much written and spoken recently about the need to plant trees to avoid a climate disaster; Michael Gove has re-stated the aim to plant 11 million by 2020 (despite the fact that actual planting has fallen way behind schedule since that number was first mentioned some years back). Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust all reckon that it should be at least twice that number; Rory Stewart in his recent Leadership election pitch pledged 100 million trees! Quite clearly something urgent need to be done, both nationally and locally.

The Cheshire East Local Plan stated that that in Wilmslow 900 new-build houses were required, much of it on precious Green Belt land; at present time this number has been massively over-shot, with 621 built, 403 under construction and a further 285 with planning consent (total 1309). The fact that the number of new houses proposed across in Cheshire East was vastly over-stated indicates that perhaps there should be a re-think on what we do with our Green Belt land instead of allowing developers to land-bank agricultural fields.

Under the previous regime at CEC there was deliberate falsification of air-quality monitoring figures which, presumably, led to some planning consents being granted where they should not have (the on-going Police Criminal investigation does not seem to be producing much in way of a result). It was perhaps never a good idea for the same department to be in charge of air-monitoring and planning consents; particularly given the seemingly out of control, gung-ho, nature of Planning at that time.

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of building (or setting aside land for) un-needed, housing we could plant trees? Wouldn't it be great if, instead of covering our local green spaces (which were unnecessarily taken out of Green Belt protection when the flawed Local Plan was rushed through at the second attempt) we could plant and open up woodlands for the people? Our then Councillors really let us down and most have paid the price.

There are several areas which would be ideal; land around Stockton Farm above Butterfly Bank and Sunnybank Farm, both of which have been subject to proposals by developers. The former Royal London agricultural fields on Alderley Road- wouldn't that make a great People's Arboretum and green gateway from Alderley? The fields to the east of the A34 by-pass between Wilmslow and Alderley; currently grass-land but also subject to speculative plans- remember that crazy idea for a "Country Park in returning for planning consent" supported by the discredited former leader of CEC? Also there is the peat bog; surely we must reinstate the sluice gates, raise the water level and plant around the margins- the current site operator has forfeited the right to any housing development, imho. They should be made to pay for the damage they have done and by breaching the conditions of licence, surely any restoration costs must fall to them.

I have to declare a vested interest: the Royal London agricultural fields are subject to Enduring Covenants, prohibiting the erection of any form of building, for all time; apparently these are not worth the paper they are written on. I am one of over thirty households which are subject to covenant; we, like the others involved, bought our house based on the fields being in the Green Belt and having an Enduring Covenant. I had a discussion over this with the former Head of Planning at CEC and he was dismissive to the point of rudeness and subsequently went on to give planning consent for housing. He also dismissed the Three Parks Design Guide for Wilmslow, something CEC took on board from Macclesfield Borough Council. Legal advice was taken by the Covenant holders and it was decided that this David vs. Goliath struggle was not something we could afford.

However, times change; there have been massive protests about Green Belt robbery in North Manchester, decisions have been reviewed and revised. Given the "change of direction" at Cheshire East, is it not time for a review to be undertaken and an immediate moratorium on new site start-up, at least until the falsified air-quality data has been corrected and any illegal planning consents revoked? After all, if Wilmslow has already more than achieved its "quota", why should further housing development be allowed? It doesn't happen in the agricultural or fishing industries, so why is house building any different? It's interesting to note the difficulty that developers are already having in selling new apartments and houses in the area; this means that they might just sit on land until they consider the market will stand more building.

As they used to say at my school: discuss!

Reader's Letter


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Roger Bagguley
Thursday 27th June 2019 at 10:23 am
"David and Goliath" ended with a victory for the little guy. This was achieved through using his brain. Not a feature of the way zombie economics works today. Your experience in dealing with the then Leader of Planning over the covenants, is a glaring example. In my case it was flippancy, in others the way complainers were dismissed.

Of course we must protect our green spaces, of course we need to plant trees. It is a no brainer. But Goliath needs a brain for the little guy to win. Is this possible? Perhaps a need for prayer.
David Jefferay
Friday 28th June 2019 at 10:34 pm
I agree Pete. I was reading this article yesterday ( and it struck me that it is essentially 1 tree per person per year. I planted 4 in my garden last year but won't be long before I run out of space!
I can't help thinking there must be people out there around Wilmslow who have land and are more interested in leaving a legacy than chasing the developer's shiny pennies! If that was the case I'm sure we could get funding for a people's arboretum
or people could just plant their own.
I lived temporarily in Derby around the millennium and a wood was planted near where I lived. At the time it was just tiny little saplings but I've just googled it ( and it's great to see it developing nicely.
It would be fantastic if we could have such an enduring project in the town.
Ade Whitaker
Saturday 29th June 2019 at 11:37 am
What a great letter. I'd love to see more trees in Wilmslow in whatever way that ends up being achieved. The trees are what gives the town its character - imagine Knutsford Road or Alderley Road (near Sainsburys) with no trees! There are a lot of trees being cut down completely or hacked to within an inch of their lives. If we allow this trend to continue then Wilmslow will just become a concrete jungle. Add to that the general destruction of front gardens to make way for over-sized driveways and we are heading in completely the wrong direction environmentally.

On a related point - who is responsible for the trees in the grass verges on Knutsford Road? A very well established tree was cut down recently - a real shame unless it was diseased. I would have expected someone (WCT, CEC?) to be planting a replacement. Or - are these trees part of the private properties behind them? How widespread are tree preservation orders on the mature trees in Wilmslow - and does anyone actively enforce those orders?
Roger Bagguley
Saturday 29th June 2019 at 1:16 pm
I seem to recall an aspiration that for every tree needing to be cut down, diseased or otherwise, two new trees would be planted. Another recent loss is on Alderley Road. Thus, let's see some action from charged with replacements.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 4th July 2019 at 9:05 pm
Given the recent scientific reports that a trillion trees could be planted without encroachment on existing agricultural land, I slightly disappointed by the lack of comment here from Wilmslow’s new green Communists- Transition, In Bloom etc. I first became involved with Greenpeace thirty-odd years ago and am, frankly, underwhelmed by the lacklustre efforts of the local groups.
It is all very well to claim to be “Chair” of this and that yet just pitch up for photo-opportunities; presumably this is the role of failed local politicians?
Let’s get started folks; let’s challenge the “dodgy” planning consents, let’s make the new Council work- we voted them in, now we need to guide and support them
Pippa Jones
Thursday 8th August 2019 at 3:38 pm
I have only just spotted this excellent letter and agree completely with the idea that we should plant trees in Wilmslow in an effort to combat climate change. As a member of Transition Wilmslow I am sorry that Pete Taylor thinks that we are useless lacklustre green communists! Perhaps he might like to take a look at our Community Garden in the Temp this week and let us know if he thinks it is lacklustre...we have planted a number of fruit trees and have a fantastic collection of very productive raised beds, plus a butterfly garden. We also helped to plant a mini orchard in The Carrs and in Meriton Park. Trees need land though, and long term looking after, so as a group with no resources we aren't able to plant a wood, much as we would like to. In one of our responses to the Neighbourhood Plan we did suggest a Town Fund, where people could make donations that would support the greening of the town. That suggestion didn't as far as I know get through to the last version of the Plan, but it is something that the Town Council could consider.
Transition Wilmslow would be really delighted if Pete Taylor were to come along to one of our meetings and suggest how we could make more progress with tree planting; we are always keen to hear from anyone who would like to get involved and certainly keen to hear from people with better ideas than ours. All details of our work are on the Transition Wilmslow website. There is also a meeting on Climate Change on 5th September at the Parish hall...building a wood would be a great suggestion.