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29th May, 2022

Conservationists who fear impact of woodland management have ‘misunderstood’ plans, says Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

ECO-CAMPAIGNERS who fear Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s (WWT) sustainable woodland management plans for Piles Coppice Wood could destroy rare wildlife have ‘misunderstood’ the plans, the Trust says.

WWT, which acquired the wood near Binley Woods as an extension to Brandon Marsh in 2018, plans to introduce cyclical felling, thinning and coppicing to attract a bigger range of wildlife.

But conservationists say there is a record of endangered willow tits in the wood and fear they could be harmed.

Tree Warden Ann Wilson from Coventry, who started a petition to rethink the plans, said she saw no clear reason for the felling proposals.

She said: “Just because in its 1,000-year history it was once coppiced, it doesn’t mean it has to be coppiced now.

“The trees are still very healthy and most importantly, the wood is stable.

“We managed to speak virtually to the Forestry Commission and are pleased it has massively reduced the original plans.

“Any intervention will destroy the habitat these rare species depend on.”

Piles Coppice, which is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, has 27 different types of tree including rare mature small-leaved limes, 137 different species of moths, and over 100 plants.

The Trust says the woodland used to be managed by grazing herbivores and then by people cutting back trees and shrubs to ground level and regrow in rotation – which, it says, created a varied age and structure to the woodland and helped support a greater variety of wildlife.

A WWT spokesperson said: “While we appreciate concern from the local group, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s plans for management have been misunderstood and misrepresented.

“There is an unconfirmed record of willow tits at Piles Coppice, however the planned management at Piles Coppice will benefit such species as they prefer early stage woodland that is not over mature.

“It is vitally important to create new and open woodland and retain dead wood and rotting stumps which they breed in, which is part of that project, and we hope the efforts will see them return.

“Far from causing damage to the woodlands, our work will conserve and enhance key habitats and species, and with 15 per cent of all species in the UK facing threat of extinction it is imperative we act to stop and reverse that decline and bring wildlife back.”

The Trust says the woodland lacks the variety in habitat that it would have had for hundreds of years because it has not been not been actively managed for 70 years, adding: “That poses a risk to the rarest wildlife. If nothing is done, then when the trees reach the end of their natural lives there will be no other trees to replace them.

“Trees of different ages and varied structures due to cyclical felling, thinning and coppicing will attract a bigger range of wildlife, and will also be more resilient to pests, diseases and climate change.

“By restarting the woodland management in a sensitive way, we are able to improve the age and structure of the woodland, encourage the growth of new trees and secure a sustainable future for generations of wildlife and people to enjoy.”

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