HomeManagementHabitat ManagementEsher Common - a dispute with English Nature 24.9.05

Esher Common - a dispute with English Nature 24.9.05

Esher Commons Interests Committee (ECIC)

23rd September 2005

Dear Friend,


The Esher Commons 360 hectares (885 acres) were purchased as public pleasure grounds for the benefit of the local community during the period 1920-24 and have always been predominantly woodland, through containing some heathland and grassland. The first SSSI designation was made in 1955, followed by a revision in 1975 when the A3 Esher by-pass was built through it, then by a more thorough one in 1986. Until about 1997 there were no attempts by our local Elmbridge Borough Council to indulge in large-scale tree felling. However, over the last 8 years, the Forestry Commission has authorised the felling of more than 10,000 trees on what is wholly Common land without any prior public consultation.

It is now evident that our local EBC has been operating effectively as the local branch of English Nature during this period. The Forestry Commission (with whom ECIC has been in close contact for the past 6 months) was unaware that EBC was not consulting with its local residents and users of the Esher Commons about its tree felling intentions. Now, as you see from the 2 pages of A4 which follow on the attachment, we are concentrating our efforts on getting the Forestry Commission to refuse a felling licence and the FC has already received by e-mail and response slips at the foot of our letter well in excess of 500 replies, the like of which is unprecedented in the experience of Mr Patrick Stephens.From our contact with him on 22 September it seems that such a refusal is one possible outcome, another being a series of negotiations to ascertain whether a mutually acceptable solution can be achieved (rather improbably in the view of ECIC, given local residents’ mistrust of Elmbridge BC and English Nature).

As we believe our case has implications for other groups fighting unwelcome initiatives by English Nature (and CCW) we are writing to invite you to e-mail Mr Patrick Stephens (details shown in our letter) or write to him by post so he receives it by 30 September at the latest. His full address is Forestry Commission, S.E England Conservancy, Alice Holt, Wrecclesham, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 4LF.

Major Jim Hersey, Alan Holloway and others in the Formby group concerned about Sefton and Ainsdale have already e-mailed Patrick Stephens for which we are most appreciative.

We shall be very grateful if you feel able to do likewise.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Matthews

Co-ordinator, ECIC.

1st September 2005

Dear Supporter,


We were pleased that you were one of the numerous supporters of our campaign to oppose the large scale felling of trees on the Esher Commons proposed by English Nature and Elmbridge BC officers.

Following a vote in favour of implementing the plan by a minority of 22 out of 60 Elmbridge councillors on 24 May 2005, we are now concentrating our efforts in persuading the Forestry Commission not to issue the essential tree felling licence. The Forestry Commission’s mission statement reads:

Protecting and expanding England’s forests and woodlands, and increasing their value to society and the environment.

Forestry Commission statistics reveal that more than 10,000 trees have been the subject of felling authority over the last 8 years on the Esher Commons. Our estimates indicate that upwards of another 50,000 trees could be at risk of felling over the next five years if a felling licence was to be issued and the EN/EBC plan for near clear felling over the proposed 22.6 hectares was to proceed.

Thus your help is now urgently required .The requisite Public Notice has appeared (31 August copy reproduced), and objectors have just 28 days in which to write in and register their objections on the basis of reasoned arguments. You may wish to do so choosing your own form of words. Alternatively, you may wish to select one or more phrases from the menu shown overleaf. Most of this varied collection has been taken from comments written in on a majority of the 1800 cards received.

If you now have access to e-mail you can send your reply to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Please copy to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) If not, please put your reply in the enclosed freepost envelope* and ECIC will ensure that all timely replies are taken to Mr Patrick Stephens within the 28 day deadline.

Please act now in order to prevent further unwanted tree felling on the Esher Commons comprising Arbrook, Esher, Fairmile, Oxshott, West End and Winterdown Woods. Your cooperation is essential if we are to have any hope of persuading the Forestry Commission to withhold the granting of a felling licence on the basis of strong local opposition among users and local residents who value highly the still existing woodland amenities of our Common land. This was bought more than 80 years ago for public recreation and the benefit of the local community. Please bring this to the attention of any friend/other family members if they share your views, even if they live outside Elmbridge and/or did not reply to our Defend Our Esher Commons campaign earlier.

Thank you.

* not included for those of you giving e-mail addressed to ECIC previously.

Mr Patrick Stephens, Case Officer for Esher Commons, Forestry Commission, S.E England Conservancy

I/we name(s) _____________
(NB state number in family if more than one)
Address ____________________________________
Postcode _______

Wish to object to the English Nature/Elmbridge BC plan for the felling of a large number of trees over 22.6 hectares on the Esher Commons for the following reason(s):




The tree cover on the Esher Commons has already been reduced with more than 10,000 felled during the last 8 years, without prior public consultation - inexcusable!

We have walked in the woods for many years. The tree felling programme is a disaster, because it is done so badly. The land is abandoned, not restored to a heath.

EBC should be made to demonstrate satisfactory countryside management skills in previously -cleared areas before any further tree clearances are considered.

The woodlands are one of the area's greatest assets and beauty and are a major reason for living here. It would be criminal to demolish such an asset which is enjoyed by so many people of all ages and walks of life for miles around.

To bulldoze over the wishes of the majority of people who actually walk the Commons daily is a disgrace and an affront to democracy.

EBC should remember " Conservation is the preservation of the natural environment".

We need our trees for our health!

I object most strongly to the systematic and anti-social clear felling of trees in all parts of the Commons. The Commons were bought as pleasure grounds for the public. EBC is ignoring this responsibility.

I frequently use the Commons with my family for walking/cycling and would be appalled by the large scale felling of trees.

As naturalists, we totally condemn the Council's ill-conceived plan to fell trees on the scale proposed. We promise it will be held to account.

We ought to preserve the woodland for future generations

Previous areas cleared look a complete mess and do nothing for the Commons.

Why? Why are they doing this - don't want heathland, want trees, freedom to run and walk the dog, not restricted areas.

The Esher Commons were bought for the benefit of the local community with the trees and woodland being their most important amenity.

We are most concerned about noise pollution. Also concerned about air pollution and loss of visual amenity.

We are daily walkers and are appalled at the Council's blitzing of our woods.

We understand the need to manage trees. However, we note that during previous 'clearance' only quality timber was felled, leaving behind thin straggly, poor specimens. Now we have a proliferation of brambles, nettles and bracken.

I would prefer to see the council maintain the woodlands, i.e. clear brambles etc, rather than fell trees.

I am vehemently opposed to anything which will (a) increase the risk of flooding in the area, i.e. raising the water-table and (b) increase pollution.

Oxshott Woods is an integral part of Oxshott life. 

Rather than felling trees, we should have a plan for sustained woodland management - surely that is conservation!

We do not want any further increase in heathland.

The proposed scheme would totally destroy our best local amenity.

The appalling state of previously-cleared areas and the lack of woodland management in the rest of the Commons stand as testament to EBC‚ incompetence in countryside management.

Further large-scale felling of trees on the Esher Commons would be incompatible with the mission statement of the Forestry Commission.

Esher Common - dispute with English Nature

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