At the beginning of August 2022, the Municipality of Grouville felled 6 mature poplar trees on La Rue du Marais a la Cocque, sited on the edge of a field owned by the Parish. The last of an original row of 13 trees, the action was taken by Connétable Labey at a time when legislation was in the pipeline to increase the protections afforded to Island trees. I start Grouville Community, Environment & Change’s response to the consultation on the proposed legislation with this, not to revisit why or how this happened which has the potential to polarise our community. I start with this to emphasise that tree protection legislation is needed in Jersey. This group documented the full story of the demise of the 13 poplar trees here in the sincere hope that it will never happen again. A summary of the facts are:
The final 6 Poplar trees were felled with no notice to parishioners.
No business case was produced to make the decision.
No independent survey report was prepared from an arborist or tree surgeon stating that the trees were dead or dying.
An email from Procureur Rebours dated 30th July states that the trees must go because they threaten the JE power cables. No investigation appears to have been done to establish whether the cables could be run underground.
The stumps continue to produce shoots and the roots produce suckers, which the Municipality destroy.
Municipality email dated 23rd January 2023 - poison to be applied to the stumps.
No Parish Assembly called to decide upon the management plan to replant the area, which could have included an option to allow the shoots to form a well-managed poplar hedgerow.
At best, the Municipality took an inappropriate decision without following a proper governance process, and at worst it willfully felled trees in advance of legislation which would have protected them. These were mature trees with trunks in excess of 70cm. These were an asset in carbon capture, air purification, shade provision, drawing excess water from marshland soil and enriching it for food production. Trees support our sense of place and our well being. Young trees planted in their place are unlikely to achieve the carbon draw down of these felled mature trees in my lifetime. The Island community needs educating about the value of mature trees. Until mindsets shift, this group agrees that a law must be introduced to protect mature trees.
The late clarification from the Minister for the Environment that routine maintenance of trees will be exempt from the legislation is welcomed. Prior to this clarification one group member had calculated that he would need to pay £500 every other year to pollard trees in his garden. This would be unacceptable. Commercial landscapers and tree surgeons in the group advised that some of their clients were requesting trees be felled in advance of enactment. The result would be less trees on Island. The law must protect mature, healthy trees AND encourage us to plant more trees.
Rather than capturing all trees, hedges, and shrubs, the group recommends that the legislation simply protects mature trees with a diameter in excess of 50cm. This would reduce the volume of transactions that the planning department would have to process, direct protection to higher value, mature trees, and also avoid the need to:
Define what a tree is;
Include exceptions 4) to 10);
Define routine maintenance.
Exceptions 1) to 3) together with evidence needs are accepted.
The group felt that protection for trees and bushes on building sites needed to be embedded separately in the legislation.
The consultation document did not outline the fines for breaches of the law. The group feels that fines need to be a sufficient deterrent to commercial builders and other organisations.