A DECISION to cut down a wood in Lowton has caused outrage after the trees were damaged by squirrels.

Locals in Wigan are objecting to plans to fell trees in Byrom Wood near Lowton over the next 25 years – and have even argued that culling the animals would be a better course of action. 

Forestry England have submitted their Wigan Forests Plan pending consultation, which involves cutting down 3 hectares of the wood every five years – but angry locals say the move is a ‘kick in the teeth.’

Forestry England, an agency that works under the Forestry Commission, explained that squirrels debarking the younger trees is so extensive it is now killing the trees – which will prevent the woodland maturing.

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Leigh Journal: Byrom Hall WoodByrom Hall Wood (Image: Wigan Council)

Locals say this method to chop down the trees that have been ‘infected’ by squirrels is too drastic. Lowton West Residents (LWR) thinks culling squirrels is the more appropriate method.

Linda Graham, chair of Lowton West Residents, said: “Forestry England’s proposed clearfell plan for Byrom Hall Wood has come as a real kick in the teeth for Lowton residents, who thought that the cancellation of HS2 had secured this much valued wood’s settled future, avoiding the major disruption that would have involved. We will be raising many concerns about the proposals in Lowton West Residents’ response, and asking that the plan for Byrom be reconsidered.  

Residents have been making their thoughts known via a public consultation, with the current plans would see new conifers introduced to the area nearer to the end of this century where the ash trees have been chopped down.

“Squirrel damage is present in every woodland but particularly high in Byrom Wood which will limit the opportunity to grow trees on a longer rotation length,” the Forestry England plan stated.  “Ash dieback is now present on all sites and the infected trees will be removed as stands are thinned in the next 10 years.

“This will have a financial impact as the ash trees which have only just become established will have to be removed, never reaching maturity. The removal of the ash will provide the opportunity to do some additional planting in the existing woodlands and introduce a more diverse mixture of species that will be better suited to the predicted climate at the end of this century.”

The Wigan Forest Plan sets out the long-term woodland management objectives for a number of woodlands – Viridor, Byrom Wood, Windy Bank, Colliers Wood and Barlows Farm, which together cover 328 hectares of woodland. The plan is now in consultation and the public can participate by sharing their views here.

A spokesperson for Forestry England, addressing the plans, said: “This includes plans for some areas of Byrom Wood to be clear-felled. This work is needed due to extensive squirrel damage which means the woodland wouldn’t mature in its current condition.

“The felling will be in small groups phased in over the next 25 years. The clear-fell areas will be left to re-generate naturally either from regrowth from tree stumps, or from fallen seeds growing into new areas of woodland.

“The veteran oaks will be retained and continue to be important habitat for wildlife. Some aspects of forest management can leave areas looking quite different and woodlands like Byrom Wood are well loved by communities, so we understand some people are concerned about the changes.

“Forestry England manages all the nation’s forests and woodlands with the long-term future of the area in mind, planning head for these landscapes to flourish. We are in touch with local residents’ groups and interested organisations to discuss our plans and hear their views.”