MWT has been absolutely delighted (and frankly staggered) at the overwhelming response, from people in the IOM and UK, in support of not removing any of the Elm Tree Tunnel at St Marks. The setting up of the petition (33,000+ signatures now), Facebook group and action group, that carried out a peaceful protest at the weekend, highlighted just how strong the feelings are to keep all these elm trees. It completely justifies why MWT believed we needed to inform people that this was set to take place. Sincere thanks to you all for adding your voice for nature – you have been heard.
Today the MWT Chair and myself met with senior staff at DEFA and I was delighted with the response from Minister Boot, and his senior team, towards the Elm tree situation. I know DEFA are soon to meet the landowner to discuss the case and I am very hopeful that a solution will be found that means these trees will not be felled.
Unfortunately, such an emotive case has resulted in some highly inappropriate communication towards Minister Boot, Martyn Perkins, MHK and others in the Planning Committee that Martyn Chairs. I know that in any such case the elected politicians will likely be criticised (which in some way goes with the job), but this has gone way beyond that and I have personally apologised to these gentlemen if MWT have been the reason for the communication aimed at them. I would personally add that Martyn Perkins has been a great ally for MWT in the time I’ve been in post, with (for example) his support for our nature reserves, plastic reduction and his chairing of the Manx Nature Conservation Forum. MWT would ask that the personal attacks on all individuals please cease immediately, as they cause pain, and do not help us achieve a longer-term solution to prevent this situation happening again.
MWT are most keen that all understand that we are not laying the blame for this planning decision on any individual(s) per se. We believe the situation at St Marks simply highlights a flaw in the current IOM planning process, which has resulted in permission being granted to fell a significant section of this important Elm Tree Tunnel. The planning committee makes decisions based on the information presented to them and on this occasion I believe the information in front of them was lacking. We collectively, as an Island, got this process and decision wrong and we need to learn from this.
Our MWT stance remains the same; this Elm Tree Tunnel is precious and felling a section of them would significantly damage the integrity of this whole iconic and beautiful feature. We remain saddened by the planning decision and believe they must not be felled. At the same time, we must use this case as a driver to improve the way nature is treated in future IOM planning applications, therefore ensuring nature, habitats and trees are properly considered within our Island Biosphere. I hope there are many positives for the IOM out of this (including the trees remaining).