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    Ancient larch trees could be felled due to ‘essential health and safety’ reasons

    Concern have been raised over the future of a popular beauty spot in the Malvern Hills. Thirds Wood, nicknamed ‘Little Switzerland’, looks set to lose a swathe of over-mature larch trees, if plans proposed by land managers, the Malvern Hills Conservators (MHC), get the green light.

    While the number of targeted trees remain unconfirmed by the Conservators, members of the public have expressed anxiety over the impact the proposal could have on the picturesque area.

    A Malvern resident, who will remain anonymous, said she was “concerned” to read Part Three of the Conservator’s draft Land Management Plan, which details plans for Thirds Wood.

    She said felling the larch trees, which pose a health and safety risk due to their age, would “drastically” transform the “unique and magical beauty” of the area. And another person described the trees as “the character of the area”.

    Meanwhile, Matthew Cooke, owner of the nearby Malvern Hills Hotel, said: “I’m always very respectful and positive about everything the Conservators do and generally think that they think things through before they chop trees down.”

    And with just days to go before the plan’s consultation period ends on Sunday, January 31, residents need to get their views in quickly.

    Jonathan Bills, a conservation officer with the Conservators, moved to reassure residents and said: “It [Thirds Wood] is not entirely comprised of Larch so it certainly won’t be all of the trees. It is a mixed woodland so it is made up of broad leafed trees and Larch trees.

    “Once they [the larch] reach that stage which foresters call over mature they, like all trees, can drop limbs and pose more of a health and safety risk than young trees. They are more dangerous than the young trees.

    “We are doing it for essential health and safety reasons and we are going to involve local people and get them to understand why it is essential that we need to do some of these works.

    “We are very aware that people are keen on that site and we want to work with them to see what they want.”

    The woodland, which has Jubilee Drive and several footpaths running through it, is a commemorative planting dating back to Queen Victoria’s jubilee.

    Currently there is a nationwide ban on planting Larch trees due to the threat of Phytophthora, a disease which destroys plants and trees.

    Instead, if the over-mature larch are felled, the Conservators propose to replant the site in order to maintain the mixed woodland.

    A spokesperson for the Forestry Commission, which is in discussion with the MHC, said: “‘Over mature’ actually means they have passed the point where it is most economic to harvest the timber. Without other issues they will still continue grow but less vigorously.

    “We are having ongoing discussions and offering advice; but have not been on the site recently so are not aware of any compelling reasons to fell immediately. This decision rests with them based on the information and all advice they have.”

    Following the consultation period, the plan will be sent to committee for approval. It will then go before the Board of Conservators at a meeting in March for the final go-ahead.

    Mr Bills said the Conservators would look to begin work on felling the trees this year if plans are approved.

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