Why is 250-year-old Harrogate tree to be axed?

Concerned Harrogate resident Andy Dennis. (1901081AM1)
Concerned Harrogate resident Andy Dennis. (1901081AM1)

A historic tree in Harrogate which may have stood since the reign of King George III is potentially under threat as part of plans to build a new homeless shelter.

Having granted planning permission for the development last August, Harrogate Borough Council has been working to ensure damage to wildlife and natural habitat at the site off Spa Lane in Starbeck is kept to a minimum.

But three trees are set to be lost in the plans, among them one of 1,014mm in diameter, a size which indicates it may belong to the era of King George III and the 1770 Enclosure Act which created the Stray partly by enclosing the Ancient Forest of Knaresborough.

Although three replacements are proposed and careful landscaping of the site is also planned, local resident Andy Dennis, said more care was needed over the handling of the area.

He said: “I am personally in favour of the homeless accommodation development but believe that the developers should not destroy the habitats that surround the site.

“The site has long been home to an abundance of wildlife, squirrels have dreys in a number of the trees. Hedgehogs have nests in the border areas and a wide variety of birds nest in the trees and hedges.”

Part of a Conservation Area, the much-needed new homeless facility would provide temporary accommodation for 20 people, with the focus on single people sleeping rough in severe weather.

The council has already conducted an ecology report and a bat survey at the site and has also employed the expertise of its own arboricultural section.

As part of the planning process last July, Paul Casey, the council’s arboricultural manager in the department of community services, said the size of one tree labelled “T6” was important.

He said: “That is a significant stem diameter for a tree and attaches a level of historical value.”

Coun Rebecca Burnett, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “An ecological study on the area was done and formed part of the planning application. The permission given requires a landscaping scheme which retains boundary hedges, and an ecological mitigation scheme which protects existing wildlife. We’re confident that wildlife and the environment has been considered, taken into account during the decision making process, and protected.”

The council is currently producing a 30-year woodland planting strategy for the Ancient Forest of Knaresborough, partly to mark the 250th anniversary in 2020 of the 1770 Enclosure Act.

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