I WRITE in response to the letter published last week from Cllr Vince Smith, with the brief response from Karl Battersby, concerning the potential removal of a healthy, mature tree adjacent to Embsay Road on ‘safety’ grounds (Craven Herald letters, July 15).

The UK is the most nature depleted country in Europe, and also suffers from having the lowest tree canopy cover. It’s not hard to see why this is the case with the felling of many mature trees in the Craven District over recent years, and now the proposal to remove this lovely tree by the Embsay Road.

Why does accommodating vehicular traffic always seem to take dominance over nature and the health and well-being of local people?

Highway Engineers quite rightly cite the safety of both drivers and pedestrians as one of their key areas of concern, but why do vehicles always take precedence? In the case of the Embsay Road, surely with the high number of new houses and the potential increase in the number of pedestrians, the road has changed from being a link road to a peripheral residential road.

Thus a speed limit of 40 mph would seem appropriate and, if crossing places are tricky because of existing vegetation, change the location of the crossing place.

Highways always seem to see trees as a liability, but they’re not – they’re an asset, and provide a myriad of benefits to the natural world and to us human beings.

We can now prove that the benefits from just one tree can exceed hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum. If you fell a healthy, mature tree such as the Embsay Road tree, you will need to plant more than 30 in compensation, and it will take a generation for these to do the business. The young ladies from the Greatwood School Nature Savers, who were also included in last week’s paper, are well aware of such issues from the work that they do. Why are so many of the professionals involved in designing and managing the public realm seeming so ignorant of these matters?

Surely it’s time that fellow professionals, elected members and local community groups started to creatively work together to improve the quality of the places where we all live, love, work and play. There is no creativity in business as usual, and we are running out of time to create viable futures for our current communities, let alone our up and coming generations.

I never really gave much credence to the old adage that urban foresters used to quote that the shoe sizes of far too many Highways Engineers exceed their IQ.

Now I’m beginning to wonder if they’re right. The Embsay Road tree must stay, and other creative ways found to accommodate the significant changes that are happening in that part of our district with the new housing and the rising population.

Prof. Dr. Alan Simson

Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Forestry.


Note - In response to the new housing development on the corner of the Embsay Road and The Bailey, Karl Battersby, director of business and environmental services, North Yorkshire County Council, has said the tree will be removed, and replacement trees will be planted within the new development. Warning signs will also be installed on the approach to the new pedestrian crossing. There will not be a reduction in the speed limit to 40mph on the road to Embsay.