Hundreds of mature trees to be chopped down for new path to move planes to East Lothian's National Museum of Flight

The Woodland Trust has lodged an objection, pointing out that the area facing destruction is next to an ancient woodland site known as Big Wood which will be affected

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 11:35 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 3:03 pm
Hundreds of mature tress to be chopped down for new path to move planes to East Lothian's National Museum of Flight

HUNDREDS of mature trees are set to be chopped down to create a path for four planes to be moved to a new exhibition centre planned for the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian.

Plans for the new visitor base and exhibition centre reveal a 40-metre-wide swathe will need to be cut through a tree belt separating the building from the museum’s current base at East Fortune, with a total of 299 trees to be felled if the plans are approved.

The move has angered local residents, who say that other sites could have been considered which would not require the destruction of the woodlands.

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And the Woodland Trust has lodged an objection, pointing out that the area facing destruction is next to an ancient woodland site known as Big Wood which will be affected.

It said there would be “direct loss of irreplaceable ancient woodland” under the plans.

The museum’s architects say other sites on the current museum site are protected, as the airfield it is sited on is a Scheduled Monument.

In their report on plans for the new centre, which would include car parking for nearly 150 vehicles, they say that three of the historic planes on display at the current museum site need to be brought indoors to protect them and will go on display in the new centre, alongside Concorde, which is currently in a hangar at the museum.

They say: “The Comet has been identified to have the greatest wingspan and requires at least a 40m-wide swathe to be cut in the tree belt.

“Due to the conservation requirement to preserve the integrity of the aircraft as objects in the National Collection, the wings cannot be detached and therefore, in order to facilitate the project, the tree belt to the north of the proposed site requires to be removed.”

The Comet and Vickers Viscount are described as being of “national and international significance” and are currently on display outdoors alongside a BAC1-11 and will be moved into the new centre.

Concorde will also be moved and a Vulcan Bomber currently on display outdoors will move into its current hangar.

A tree report said that 299 trees would need to be removed to accommodate the project, with some dating back nearly more than 150 years, covering 0.64 hectares of woodland on the Gilmerton Estate, next to an area known as Big Wood.

It estimates an initial carbon loss of 142tC02e from the removal of the trees but says it would be “paid back” by planting nearly 800 new trees.

Planning officers are recommending approval of the plans, which received 13 objections, many about the impact on the woodlands and wildlife, with claims there might be bat roosts in the trees, as well as badgers living there.

The Woodland Trust told the council: “The trust objects to the planning application on the basis of disturbance and loss to Big Wood.

“When land use is changed to a more intensive use such as in this situation, plant and animal populations are exposed to environmental impact from outside of the woodland.

“These detrimental edge effects can result in changes to the environmental conditions within the woodland and consequently affect the wood’s stable condition.

“Detrimental edge effects have been shown to penetrate woodland, causing changes in ancient woodland characteristics that extend up to three times the canopy height in from the forest edges.”

The Woodland Trust also says a 20-metre buffer zone is needed between Big Wood and the proposed parking area and fencing in place to stop any encroachment during construction if the plans are approved.

It warns: “Ancient woodland is irreplaceable, once gone it cannot be recreated.”

New building 'necessary'

A National Museums Scotland spokeswoman said: "This project does not affect ancient woodland or the Big Wood which is covered by a Tree Protection Order. The woodland landscape has been fully considered and we have conducted both an Arboricultural Impact Assessment and extended Tree Survey.

"The project requires the felling of 50 mature trees out of a total of 297 trees. Those identified in the survey as being of particular significance will remain. The strip of land affected covers 0.64 hectares and a 0.7 hectare area will be replanted with 780 trees – including many mature trees as well as saplings - supplemented by a woodland shrub layer which will create an additional wildlife habitat on what is currently arable farmland. This will sustain a more diverse variety of species than is currently present and provide a lasting legacy.

"The current Museum is located within the best preserved Second World War airfield in the UK which has been classed as a Scheduled Monument site. Its heritage status means we are not allowed to build on the site so the proposed new hangar will be built on land adjacent to the historic airfield. This new building is necessary to protect internationally important aircraft which are currently at risk of deterioration from being located outdoors.

"National Museums Scotland recognises the global threat of climate change and during the development of our proposals we have worked to minimise the environmental impact of the new building which incorporates ground source heat pumps and roof-top photovoltaic panels."