Bridgewater Canal Bank

Proposed felling of protected trees puts Castlefield wildlife at risk

  • Residents are concerned about felling of 18 trees
  • The trees are protected by tree preservation order
  • People say they are an amenity to Castlefield

The proposed felling of 18 trees on the banks of Bridgewater Canal could have a devastating impact on the wildlife of Castlefield, say campaigners.

Residents who live close by are growing increasingly concerned about the potential effect the construction work could have on a selection of trees on the banks of the canal. 

The trees, which are protected by a tree preservation order established in 2015, have recently been surveyed. The survey confirmed that one of the trees was “an excellent specimen” for its particular species, and another eight were described as being in “very good condition”.

The report advised they should be retained but aplanning permission application is seeking to fellcut down the trees.

Russell Eckersley, a Worsley Mill resident since 2007, first raised concerns in 2015 when he received notification of a planning permission application for the further development of Potato Wharf on the other side of the canal.

Alarmed that there was no mention of the large, established trees lining the canal in the application, Russell and other residents of Worsley Mill agreed they should contact the city council and enquire about the trees. Following a tree survey, the council agreed to a woodland preservation order on the trees in question. 

Building work for the second part of the development of Potato Wharf began in early 2019. Russell grew concerned two weeks before Christmas when he noticed workmen assessing the area. 

He sent correspondence to the planning department and discovered that planning permission to remove the trees had been requested in August by Bridgewater Canal Company. He said residents had not been made aware of the application. 

The protected trees
A survey confirmed the several of the trees are in very good condition 

Russell said: “Whilst I would be very upset if the trees were chopped down because it will affect where I live, it’s about much more than that. They are a rare group of trees in the city centre. They’re particularly old, they need preserving and they support a lot of bird life. 

“What’s been interesting to people living in Worsley Mill is that they’re not just your average birds that you see around Castlefield – there are all sorts of unusual species that were identified at the time of the planning application.

“I’m no expert, but there are pied wagtails, redstarts, lapwings and other unusual bird species which you wouldn’t necessarily see if there weren’t trees of that age and variety.”

The trees soften the appearance of the manmade viaduct, provide a screen from the harsh lighting of the proposed Potato Wharf car park, improve Castlefield’s appearance generally but most importantly, removing the trees will leave numerous species of nesting birds with no home.  

There is also a colony of bats around the area where Worsley Mill is located, which depend on insect life living in the trees.

Ward councillors Joan Davies and Marcus Johns have given their full support for the campaign to save the trees, and protect them for future generations.

Both councillors and residents agree that a certain amount of maintenance is required in the area, as there are saplings which have self-seeded in the edging stones which line the canal bank which will potentially cause damage over time.

The applicant has been invited by planning officers to resubmit their application, this time reflecting the importance of the trees, as identified in the recent tree survey.

A decision is expected on the issue at the next planning meeting.