Suffolk

Sutton Heath tree felling questioned by locals

A felled tree at Sutton Heath

Conservationists have been accused of "ecological vandalism" after hundreds of trees were felled at a beauty spot.

The work at Sutton Heath near Woodbridge is being carried out to restore lowland heathland.

Local resident Nick Day said: "I think it's absolutely disgraceful - the prime woodland that provides all the habitat for the wild bird population is going."

Suffolk Coast and Heaths says lowland heathland is rare and the project will have long-term benefits.

Mr Day has been a visitor of Sutton Heath for over 20 years and was shocked by the felling which took place last winter.

"We had some lovely prime oak trees in here," he said. "Over 1,000 species live in an oak tree, a total contrast to the pine trees which they're leaving behind."

'Upsetting sight'

Another long-time user of Sutton Heath, Liz Farthing, said she was disturbed by the tree felling and was unsure whether the land should be reverted to heathland.

"I feel there is a natural path to evolution and it might be unrealistic to recreate that as the environment changes," she said. "For a lot of people this has become a place where we can enjoy it as it is."

Nick Collinson, manager of Suffolk Coast and Heaths' Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) unit, said the felling was part of a 10-year project.

"I can understand why people feel emotive about cutting down trees but I would counter that accusation as this is responsible conservation management," he said.

"The idea of this project, and other projects in the AONB, is not to remove all the trees but to try and develop a mosaic of open heathland with trees which is good for wildlife and good for people."

Mr Collinson said the heathland could attract adders, pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies and bird species including woodlark and nightjar.

"On the Suffolk sandlings we've lost about 80% of our lowland heath over the last century or so to agriculture, forestry and to housing developments - so there's lots of pressure on lowland heath," he said.

"We have a responsibility and we always have to balance the different sectors of the community."

Mr Day said he would like the local population to be consulted before the next stage of felling goes ahead.

"Let's have a meeting with local people and discuss a way forward that local people are happy with," he said.

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