THE controversial felling of a historic tree which made headlines all over the world has inspired a move to protect mature trees in Dumfries and Galloway.
There was a huge public outcry in September when the centuries-old famous Sycamore Gap Tree in Northumberland was illegally chopped down.
It has since emerged that tree preservation orders have been put on hold by Dumfries and Galloway Council for more than a year – meaning that historic mature trees in this region are not protected.
This has alarmed Councillor Ben Dashper, who represents Stranraer and the Rhins, and he has called for action.
His said: “Following Dumfries and Galloway Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in June 2019, we recognise that we must do all we can to fight the climate crisis and protect our region’s biodiversity.
“It is therefore welcome that thousands of trees have been planted in our region through programmes like the South of Scotland Tree Planting Grant Scheme, and we look forward to future programmes over the coming years.
“Not only is it vital that we plant new trees, but also that we protect the trees we already have. The felling of the iconic Sycamore Gap Tree at Hadrian’s Wall in September, and the resulting public outcry, has shown us just how important trees can be – to local people, their communities, and even beyond.
“We note that new public requests for tree preservation orders (TPOs) are currently suspended in Dumfries and Galloway and have been for approximately a year now.”
The council’s website states that, due to the level of planning applications and enquiries being handled by the planning department, statutory planning duties are being prioritised.
As a result, the non-statutory service where members of the public can request tree preservation orders to be placed on trees has been “temporarily suspended.”
Calling for tree preservation orders to be reinstated “as a matter of importance”, Councillors Dashper added: “Although we recognise that the criteria for successful TPOs is high, and that many trees are already protected in our region, this suspension means there is no longer an active mechanism for members of the public to seek the protection and safeguarding of important trees in their community.
“We feel this is important. As the suspension is temporary, it can be assumed that it can and should return.
“The longer this service isn’t made available again, the more risk our region has of potentially losing trees for good.”