Ancient woodland saved as Museum of Flight plan is turned down on appeal

AN ancient woodland has been saved after a bid to create a new visitors’ centre for the National Museum of Flight was thrown out by Scottish Ministers.

By Marie Sharp
Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 7:00 am
A Vulcan bomber at the National Museum of Flight
A Vulcan bomber at the National Museum of Flight

National Museums of Scotland appealed to the Scottish Government Reporter to overturn East Lothian Council’s refusal to allow the £15 million centre to be built after it involved chopping down nearly 300 trees.

Councillors ruled that the museum’s plans – to chop down 299 trees to clear a path so it could move its historic collection of planes from their current outdoor site at East Fortune into a newly built hangar – breached their Climate Change Strategy and threw out the plans at a meeting in February.

Museum bosses insisted that removing the trees was the only way to transport the “fragile” planes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Running out of space to display planes

They said that the condition of the planes, one of which has been outdoors for nearly 40 years, was deteriorating and, without bringing them indoors, they could end up being scrapped.

They include a Comet and a Vickers Viscount which are described as being of "national and international significance" and are currently on display outdoors alongside a BAC1-11 and would have been moved into the new centre.

Concorde and a rare AVRO Vulcan Bomber - part of the UK's former V-Force of nuclear bombers - currently on display outdoors would also have been rehoused.

But the planned removal of the trees had led to a public outcry, with an online petition against it gaining more than 3,500 signatures.

Ruling on the appeal, the Reporter agreed with an assessment of the strip of woods, known as Sunnyside Strip, which faced the chop and lies between ancient woodlands of Big Wood, as ‘high quality’.

He said: “The assessment describes this area as ‘a woodland of high quality’ and I agree with this description.

“Having visited the site and walked through the woodland, I find the felling of this part of Sunnyside Strip will affect trees of varying species, ages and condition, including recent under-planting.”

The Reporter went on to rule that claims the removal of the woodland was in the public benefit were not enough to overturn policy against chopping down woods.

And while claims the development breached several local plan policies were rejected by the Reporter, he concluded that the impact on the woodlands was too important.

He said: “Drawing my conclusions on the development plan policies together, I find the key determining issue is the felling of part of the ancient woodland.

“It is identified by the local development plan as an irreplaceable asset, therefore any new tree planting proposed is unlikely to fully mitigate for its loss.”

Woodland Trust Scotland, which opposed the removal of the woodlands, welcomed the decision by the Reporter to throw out the appeal.

And it paid tribute to the community campaign to save the strip and neighbouring Big Wood.

A spokesperson said: “Woodland Trust Scotland is delighted that this appeal has been rejected and Big Wood has been saved.

“We would like to pay tribute to the local people who made their voices heard on this issue.”

Marie Sharp , Local Democracy Reporting Service

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.