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Campaigners in Shropshire rally to protect threatened hedgerows

More than 200 objections have been recorded by local planners to an application to remove seven miles of hedgerow on a farm in Chirbury, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

Farmer Fraser Jones has applied for permission to remove the seven miles of hedgerow because he says the fields are too small for his machinery. He has said he won't remove all the hedgerow or any trees. But campaigners so far haven't been convinced, fearing loss of wildlife habitat and threats to significan trees. More than 80 locals attended a public meeting on 2nd January to challenge Mr Jones' plans.

Hedgerow meeting, 2 Jan 2013
Public meeting, Chirbury Village Hall. Photo: Rob McBride

Historic hedgerows and trees
The area in question on Marrington Farm, Chirbury contains a number veteran trees including a 7-metre girth oak pollard, recorded on the ATH database, and several miles of hedgerow. Despite the claim in the application to Shropshire County Council (Planning App. No. 12/05237/HMR) that the hedgerow wasn't 'historic' and that it had no wildlife value, campaigners point out that they appear on the 1800s OS maps - see ATH database maps - and that well established hedgerows are well understood to provide vital habitats for many species of flora and fauna. The area is not only part of the Shropshire Hills AONB, but is also part of the planned Stiperstones and Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership programme.

Historic OS map layer
Ancient Tree Hunt map of the area - historic OS layer

No survey
In their submission to Shropshire County Council Shrewsbury Friends of the Earth noted that it was the duty of the applicant to prove that none of the hedgerows in question were "important" in the legal definition, but that it appeared that no survey had been conducted - meaning that the council could not approve the application. Campaigners, including Ancient Tree Hunt recorder and verifier Rob McBride are calling for Mr Jones to at least delay the application, "If he did postpone until spring or summer it would allow a proper ecological survey of the farm area hedgerows, woodlands and trees," he says.

Marrington Farm hedgerow
Marrington Farm hedgerow. Photo: Rob McBride

Mr Jones attracted criticism from environmental campaigners in 2010 with plans for a large-scale "super-dairy" farm in Leighton near Welshpool.

Decision deadline
A decision on the current hedgerow application is due to be made on 31 January, with the deadline for commenting on the plans of 17 January.

Anyone wanting comment can do so online at the Shropshire County Council website at this link http://planningpa.shropshire.gov.uk/online-applications/ and search "hedgerow" and the Marrington Farm "Removal of hedgerows" proposal will appear around fourth on the list.

For more pictures see Rob McBride's Flickr slideshow of the affected trees and hedgerows:

The Ancient Tree Hunt is a living database of ancient and special trees. It was launched in 2004 as a joint venture with the Tree Register of the British Isles and the Ancient Tree Forum, and led by The Woodland Trust.

- Data is used to support biodiversity planning
- The database helps tree protection initiatives
- We support programmes of seed collection from ancient trees.
- More than 110,000 hand-picked trees have so far been recorded in the UK.

View the ATH dynamic maps

Record trees on the ATH database