All England Club wanted to cut down 18 trees on former golf course land
Trees running alongside the former fairways of Wimbledon Park Golf Club
January 26, 2023
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has been refused permission to fell 18 trees running alongside the fairways of the former Wimbledon Park Golf Club.
It asked for planning permission for the tree work in advance of the decision on its controversial expansion application across 67 hectares, including an 8,000-seat show court, between Wimbledon and Wandsworth.
The AELTC said in its application to fell the trees that the recent closure of the golf course has given it chance to assume full control of tree management.
It asked to remove "low value trees" to "benefit the growth of better trees". It also wanted to remove some areas of scrub growth.
The application added: "Over the years, scrub growth has become established in some locations around the lake. The Club is aware of the values to wildlife of scrub and wishes to encourage this.
"However, in some locations the value of the landscape as created by Lancelot Brown in the 18th century is becoming obscured. As part of this tree works application, it is proposed that some discreet areas of scrub growth will be removed before the 2023 bird nesting season begins."
But Dr Dave Dawson, environmental scientist and part of the 'Save Wimbledon Park' campaign, was one of those who made his objections to Merton Council. He said: "This is not a routine application, but one made in an area where there is considerable environmental and heritage value and where there is a history of approvals without adequate documentation being provided."
He pointed out that the 18 trees proposed for removal ranged in age from 15 to 40 years and there was no proposal to replace them elsewhere. Even if there was, it would take decades of growth to replace the propose losses.
He added: "The areas of 'scrub' proposed for removal are said to include regenerating native wetland trees (alder and willow) and other species that grow in both wet and dry woodland. However, these areas have several other wetland species not specified in the application, suggesting that the survey was inadequate and that valuable wet woodland will be compromised. It is not appropriate to grant permission for felling young trees in the absence of adequate survey and consideration of National Priority Habitat."
Merton Council's Tree Officer Rose Stepanek shared his views, and the scheme has recently been turned down.
Her grounds included:
She said a better time to consider the proposal would be when the main planning application is considered. There is no date yet set for the full scheme, which also includes 38 courts, 10 other buildings and 9kms of roads and paths, to be determined by Merton and Wandsworth councils.
Meanwhile the petition set up by Save Wimbledon Park, which is calling on Merton and Wandsworth councils to reject the upcoming planning application on the basis that the scale of the development is "unjustified", has now reached nearly 8,000 signatures.
Dr Dawson, who has been visiting Wimbledon Park Lake once a month to record the bird activity, has also just published his latest observations.
He said four Little Egrets have been seen perched in the old willow trees around the lake. These are protected birds first seen on the lake in 2019. He believes a heron family are now established on the lake's island.
"None of this is surprising. Wimbledon Park Lake is included within a Site of Borough Importance for nature conservation because its existing habitats prove attractive to herons, and many other species. It’s hard to improve on this quality of habitat, especially when water sports and intensive lawn tennis development make demands on the space that the special species use," he said.
Bird's eye view of how the Wimbledon Tennis Club could look. Picture: AELTC
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