Forestry Commission investigating tree clearance near Ironbridge

A patch of land alongside the River Severn near Ironbridge is under investigation after a number of trees were cleared.

The Forestry Commission confirmed it was conducting inquiries into whether trees at Sutton Wharf Caravan Park in Coalport had been cleared unlawfully.

A Forestry Commission spokesman said: "We take the protection of trees and woodlands extremely seriously and won't hesitate to investigate any allegations of illegal tree felling.

"If there's no felling licence or other valid permission in place, or if the wrong trees are felled, we will take action."

They added that the Forestry Commission is "aware of reports of alleged illegal felling in Coalport and has opened an investigation into these allegations".

Robert Fishmore, a member of Rowley & District Angling Society – located by the parcel of land – raised concerns about the impact the clearance would have on the environment, although the club itself declined to comment on the matter.

Mr Fishmore said he was "distraught" the land had been cleared and said fishing in the area had been affected.

He added that the area may be more susceptible to flooding, although the Environment Agency – which confirmed it had been contacted over the issue – said none of the trees cleared would have an affect on flooding and it would not be investigating the matter further.

It comes after field officers from the Forestry Commission visited a site near Bridgnorth after about 14 acres of trees were cleared.

The area at Stanmore Industrial Estate was cleared earlier this year and the Forestry Commission said it was summing up its findings.

Before anyone can cut down trees, they may need to get a felling licence from the Forestry Commission; depending on whether an exemption to the need for a licence applies.

Felling trees without the authority of a felling licence, where one was required, currently carries a penalty upon conviction in a magistrates court of £2,500, or twice the value of the timber felled.

Provisions within the Environment Bill which is currently before Parliament, will increase this penalty to an unlimited fine, set at the discretion of the court.

The Forestry Commission can also serve a restocking notice upon the individual responsible for the land where unlicensed tree felling occurred, either with or without having secured a conviction.

This notice compels the individual to restock the land with trees. Failure to comply with this notice will result in an Enforcement Notice being issued, which, if not complied with, may result in a separate offence being committed which carries a penalty of an unlimited fine.

An attempt was made to reach the caravan park for comment.

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