THE National Trust has defended a controversial plan to fell 47 acres of trees in the Blakeshall and Kingsford Forest area of Kinver Edge.

A consultation on the proposal, held by the Forestry Commission, closed yesterday (Thursday October 14).

The application has left many users of the South Staffordshire beauty spot aghast.

Among them is Susan Groom, who started a petition on She said: "The area is dubbed 'the lungs of the Black Country' with good reason.

"The wood was gifted to the National Trust by Worcestershire County Council for safe keeping with conditions attached to preserve access to the thousands of locals and visitors who walk, cycle and horse ride across it everyday.

"The Trust plan to fence off the whole area after deforestation and limit access using gates with cows grazing for most of the year.

"Thousands who visit this area feel passionately about protecting the trees from destruction."

The petition, shared on the Kinver Edge Walkers and Riders Group, has attracted more than 1,700 signatures from others keen to see the proposal thrown out.

The National Trust, however, has defended the proposed felling, describing it as "an important restoration plan".

It says the plan is to restore Blakeshall Common (the area formerly known as Kingsford Forest Park) as an area of traditional lowland heath - rich in nature - and a spokesperson for the Trust said: "To create the heathland, the Trust will fell some of the current non-native conifer plantation, which was planted as a crop and is reaching the end of its life. Many trees, like oaks and silver birch will remain, as will some of the conifers such as the Scots pines, to provide diversity of habitat and to screen the surrounding views.

"Blakeshall Common is historically an area of traditional lowland heath and the pockets of heathland that remain support a variety of plants and wildlife. Sadly, over time, these areas have become fragmented and constitute a fraction of this increasingly rare habitat that previously covered a much larger area of the landscape. The National Trust has received the support of local Wildlife Trusts, Natural England and RSPB amongst others, for this important nature restoration plan.

"Lowland heath is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan habitat as it supports a diversity of specialist wildlife, including reptiles, acid grassland plants, specialist invertebrates and birds of open habitats. Sadly, this type of habitat is declining in the UK. Connecting the current fragmented pockets of heathland on Kinver Edge will benefit a number of threatened species such as adders, which are facing potential extinction. Hopefully we may also see the return of iconic species such as nightjar and woodlark, formerly abundant at Kinver but no longer present in part due to loss of habitat.

"During this 10-year restoration plan, in total, we’re felling 19 hectares (47 acres) of trees which equates to just under a third of the whole conifer plantation. The National Trust is working with the Forestry Commission to offset the removal of this ageing conifer crop by planting trees on other land managed by the Trust, which will result in an overall gain in woodland habitat.

"We know Kinver Edge is much-loved by many local people and enjoyed for a variety of outdoor leisure activities – from dog walking, to cycling, horse riding and running. As a conservation charity, we share our supporters’ love for this place and are working to preserve the landscape for nature, wildlife and people, for generations to come."

The Kinver Riders and Walkers Group, which was set up to oppose the plan, said concerns about the impact it would have on the existing biodiverse ecosystem had been compounded by a "lack of open public consultation by the National Trust".

A spokesperson for the group added: "Local residents and businesses are deeply concerned that the removal of some 25,000 trees (19 hectares) will increase further soil erosion and flooding in the area, impacting lives and livelihoods.

"There are also concerns that loss of the woodlands will impact air quality, as all trees, both deciduous and evergreen pine, play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions. Their removal will equate to adding an extra 200 cars on the roads each year.

"The pine trees, although planted between 70 and 100 years ago as a commercial crop, now offers greater value as a public amenity. They provide a unique and contrasting habitat for the thousands of visitors each year looking to find a peaceful place for reflection and their mental well-being.

"At a time when the UK Environmental Agency is recommending taking local action to prevent the consequences of climate change, including the impact of flooding and soil erosion on communities, we believe it would be wrong for the National Trust to be allowed to proceed with their plans.

"The opposition to the plans is not about the forests verses heathland. It is recognised that both have an essential role in a viable and sustainable ecosystem. "It is however, about conserving our existing woodlands, planting more trees, and seeking alternative ways of enhancing biodiversity without impacting on communities. There is no justification for destroying one established habitat to create another, with the disruption this causes to people and wildlife."