Local Opposition To Plans To Fell Wimbledon Park Trees

AELTC asks for permission for new tree management scheme

Trees running alongside the former fairways of Wimbledon Park Golf Club
Trees running alongside the former fairways of Wimbledon Park Golf Club

September 22, 2023

New plans by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) to fell 22 trees, prune 18 others and carry out “scrub management” around the edge of Wimbledon Park lake have been met with local opposition from several local residents’ groups.

The organisation, which also wants to build 37 practice courts and an 8,000 seater stadium on Wimbledon Park, has recently applied to both Wandsworth and Merton councils for permission to carry out the work on 42 trees or groups of trees.

An earlier application to cut down 18 “low value” trees to “benefit the growth of better trees” was turned down in January, with Merton Council’s Tree Officer Rose Stepank giving a range of reasons for recommending refusal, including the proposed work being detrimental to the setting of the landscape.

The latest application to Merton Council details the following plans, with all the trees mentioned being subject to Tree Preservation Orders:

  • Grounds alongside Home Park Road: Removal of eight trees including a dead Hawthorn. Removal of group of Common Ash saplings and a Leyland Cypress hedge. Pruning to five trees.
  • Southern grounds alongside Church Road: Removal of group of Sycamore saplings, and four trees. Pruning to seven trees.
  • Northern grounds alongside Church Road: Removal of 10 trees and a dead Silver Birch tree. Pruning to two trees. Lake edge scrub management to northern and southern areas of lake: removal of non-native invasive species and coppicing of any young self-seeded trees.

An application submitted to Wandsworth Council also includes the following:

  • “Common Ash - Regrown coppice stems of low arboricultural value impacting adjacent trees and hedge. Liable to be affected by Ash Dieback in due course. Works: Cut to ground level to benefit the growth of adjacent, and better quality lime.”
  • In addition, a dead sweet chestnut would be removed and the crown of an English Oak would be reduced.

Oliver Coleman of Rolfe Judd Planning says in a report submitted to both councils on behalf of the AELTC, the prospect of the main planning application meant there had been “little opportunity” for forward-thinking tree management. Now there is no “fixed determination date” for the main scheme, the AELTC felt the time was right to undertake “proactive” aboricultural management.

He said the site has one tree which is thought to pre-date the work undertaken by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and 40 other “veteran” trees. “Amongst these is the scatter of young and newly established trees which were planted to define the lie of the golf ‘holes’, and which bear only a coincidental, and often adverse, relationship with the historical landscape,” he said.

“Wimbledon Park has been managed for golf for more than a century. In more recent years, the intensity of this form of management has increased, but with little regard for the welfare of the important trees. A great number of trees were planted over the last 30 years, principally, it would appear, to define the structure of the course. Drains and irrigation lines were installed, often in close proximity to trees and invariably to the detriment of the veteran trees, and soil compaction and chemical applications have been additional causes of stress to their roots,” he added.

But objections to the scheme have come from the Wimbledon Society, the Parkside Residents’ Association, the Belvedere East Residents’ Association and the Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association (WPRA).

A six-page letter submitted by the WPRA, detailed a comprehensive series of objections to the tree management plans. In summary it said: “"These proposals parallel a recent application here (22/T3239), which was refused. We submit that:

“Permission for removal of any tree should be refused because the trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order and replacement trees are resisted by the applicant. The applicant regards the trees to be removed as being in the wrong place.”

It added that the description of a large number of woodland trees as “scrub and saplings on the lakeside” was misleading. It also pointed out that the removal of the dead hawthorn and silver birch “fails to recognise the value of dead wood as wildlife habitat”, and that a possible future incidence of ash dieback was not a reason to “de-value” a tree.

Chris Goodair Chair, Wimbledon Society Planning & Environment Committee, said in a letter to Merton Council: “An earlier application for tree works on the golf course site (22/T3239) was refused for a great many reasons.”

He added: ”We would not expect the Council to authorise removal of any healthy trees. Where, exceptionally, the removal of a tree is justified, further trees should be planted on site. Dead trees can have a value for biodiversity and providing habitats for wildlife, and therefore the removal of dead trees should only be approved where they are dangerous.”

Wandsworth Council is seeking comments on the application, which you can make by searching for application number 2023/2905 on the council's planning explorer.

AELTC plans for Wimbledon ParkBird's eye view of how the Wimbledon Tennis Club could look. Picture: AELTC

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