Trees are saved from the axe at Winchelsea

THE National Trust has rescinded controversial plans to fell a swathe of mature trees at Winchelsea’s Rookery Field and Strand Hill.

The Trust, which owns land in the ancient town, said it wanted to restore ‘historic’ views from Winchelsea and, in the case of Strand Hill, views to Winchelsea.

Both proposals represent departures from the Trust’s standard policy of not touching trees unless they are diseased or dangerous.

This policy was cited recently by the Trust when it refused to lower the canopy of trees along the western edge of Winchelsea in order to allow more light onto the allotments on that side of the town.

The Trust’s Rookery Field proposal was rejected by Rother District Council following objections by local conservation lobby group, Winchelsea Heritage.

The most serious objection was that the Trust’s proposal would have breached Winchelsea’s Conservation Area Appraisal.

This states that “the densely wooded cliff-slopes provide high visual containment as a ‘natural town wall’, and allow only glimpses of rooftops and stone defences”.

It specifically comments that “from the east the view is similarly wooded and provides a stark contrast in levels”.

In response to this objection, Rother planners imposed Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) on all the trees on the eastern cliff.

A spokesman for Winchelsea Heritage said: “The recent felling proposal made no more sense than the previous one.

“For over 700 years, Winchelsea has had a series of different historic views and it is arbitrary to select one rather another. Within 10 yards of the new proposed view, there is a purpose-built viewing platform called the Lookout.

“At a public meeting called by the Trust in December, the Trust claimed that the latest felling proposal is not theirs, but the wish of the ‘community’ of Winchelsea. However, the majority of residents attending were opposed and the Trust admitted the proposal came from an anonymous ‘single resident’, who had told them it had majority support in the town.

“It now seems that the Trust is prepared to listen to local opinion and plans to fell the trees do not seem to be going ahead.”