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Duchess Wood Closure
Ms Pearce, Senior Development Officer, Argyll and Bute Council, 38 E Clyde St,Helensburgh, G84 7PG
CC Councillor Lorna Douglas, Mr Tom Murphy, Ms Mhairi Gardener, Ms Ailsa Cunniningham, Mr Sean McCay( Luss Estates), Helensburgh Advertiser
Dear Ms Pearce, 2nd July
The Friends of Duchess Wood (FODW) Committee would like to register our objection to the lack of transparency concerning the recent closure of the Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve (LNR) by Argyll & Bute Council (A&BC) . This decision was not taken by the Duchess Wood Local Nature Reserve Committee (DWLNRC), which has been provided with delegated responsibility for ‘management of the wood’ by A&BC( 1). Not only was the DWLNRC not consulted but members of the DWLNRC were not informed of the closure, including FODW and the landowner, Luss Estates.
The woods appear to have been closed by A&BC on or around 20th June, following a tree survey which is said to have identified unsafe trees posing a risk to the general public. Despite our requests for a copy of the report, at the time of writing this letter, FODW has not been provided with one. If the report contained sensitive information, an edited report could have been provided.
The appropriate body for making decisions about the wood is the DWLNRC, as agreed in the Management Plan ( 2 )for the Duchess Wood LNR. Responsibility for the management of this LNR has been delegated to the DWLNR. Had this committee been involved in the decision making, a different course of action might have been followed. Assuming that the state of the trees was so severe that an immediate decision had to be made, an Emergency DWLNRC meeting could have been rapidly convened to decide on an action plan.
FODW first became aware of the closure when members were confronted by cordons and signs around the perimeter of the wood. We have now been told that the wood is closed until further notice, due to ‘dangerous trees’. Since this communication, almost two weeks ago, we have asked for a copy of the survey report and details of any plans to reopen the woods. FODW were informed that a meeting was due to take place with a surveyor at the end of the previous week (27th/ 28th June) and that we would be informed of the results and decisions. To date, we have not been provided with any further information.
At the cordons, signs have been placed with a phone number to call for more information. FODW have called this number to find that the council employee answering the call knew nothing of the closure and on consulting with colleagues was unable to find anything about it. FODW have noted that members of the public are regularly passing through the cordon to enter the wood. FODW does not condone entry during the closure but it is perhaps not a surprising response, considering the lack of effective communication withe the local community. Duchess Wood is an area of natural beauty where many Helensburgh residents enjoy walks. It is a great shame to close a wood during the height of summer when residents will wish to enjoy the area.
The FODW wish to register their objection to the opaque management of this incident and request that FODW and the landowner are involved in future decision making. It seems illogical that when A&BC have indicated their intention to end their involvement in managing the Duchess Wood LNR in 2020, they are (in 2019) taking important decisions about this vital resource without any consultation. If no deadline has been set for completion of the work which may be needed to make the trees safe, it is possible that it will not be completed before A&BC walks away from its commitment to help deliver the Management Plan. It is requested that a meeting of the DWLNRC is convened at the earliest opportunity, to decide on a course of action
Dr Matt Offord
Argyll and Bute Council have today, 17th June, closed the wood due some unsafe trees. Updates will be given as soon as we have further information as to the nature of the danger and how long the closure will be in place for .
19th JUNE Update from Argyll and Bute Council
” In order to ensure public safety, a decision has been made to close Duchess Wood in Helensburgh until further notice.
Part of the ongoing management and maintenance of Duchess Wood includes undertaking a survey of the condition of the woodland.
Unfortunately, the most recent survey has highlighted a number of safety issues which need to be addressed, including urgent remedial works to trees.
We have therefore been advised it is necessary to close the woodland whilst necessary works are completed. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Further discussion indicates that the council have been carrying out a tree survey- which has raised some concern re the safety of trees overhanging paths and the car park; hence the decision to close the wood. The council have still to determine the way ahead and to see if there can be a phased reopening of the wood as remedial work is completed. We suspect that it will be some time before access to some parts of the wood is restored and FODW will press for an early resolution of this.