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Catastrophic damage to 'protected' Freeman's Wood - photos

Chris Satori

Environmental damage at Freeman's Wood
As our pictures below, taken today, show, there have been multiple breaches of the legally binding Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) which should have protected the trees of Freeman's Wood. There also appears to have been a great deal of flytipping of historic industrial landfill taken from inside the site and dumped / scattered outside the boundary fence. You can also view a larger copy version of the entire album as a slideshow on facebook here.

Freeman's Wood has always featured on our Virtual-Lancaster virtual tour as a tranquil local environmental and recreational asset, since this website was founded in 1999, and no-one living remembers it otherwise. To those familiar with the woods over past years, this sudden large-scale damage is shocking and painful. It is difficult to relate to the mentality that is responsible for vandalism on such a scale against the area and the community.

Prior to its being wooded, we understand that the site had been used as an industrial waste landfill site for the Williamson's linoleum factory during a period somewhere between the 1840s, when the factory was established, and 1930. Once the site was full, it was given a covering of earth and planted with trees to stabilise the ground. James Williamson died in 1930 and local legend has it that he had given the area over to the local community for recreational use prior to that. It has many mature trees now.

To date Virtual Lancaster has only visual evidence of that buried content of the site which has been unearthed. We are unable to comment on whether potential contaminants might be present, such as asbestos, which was used to fireproof the factory, or other hazardous wastes.

As can be seen from the photographs, while many trees have been chainsawed, a large number have also been fully uprooted, bringing up large masses of debris, appearing to consist mainly of demolition hard-core and a very large quantity of linoleum fragments and bundles, suggesting that the original landfill contents have remained throughout the site. A great deal of it has been dumped in mounds or scattered outside the fence, along with brush and branches, broken concrete posts and many entire uprooted trees. All of this material appears to originate from within the fence, where areas of upheaval can be seen. The once charmingly sylvan pathway between the woods and the fields is now a rubbish tip.

Within the fence perimeter large embankments appearing to consist of excavated landfill, felled trees, linoleum fragments and earth have been bulldozed. These are exposed and unstable and the area around and outside the fence is strewn with large quantities of fragments. The BMX track playground built in the woods by local youth groups and used for donkey's years has been excavated and now adds to the debris.

The Property Trust, who own title to the land, has lodged an appeal against the TPOs but they (or their contractors) appear to have taken a decision to pre-empt the legal process. The Property Trust are registered to tax-haven Bermuda. Without notice, the wood was fenced with very ugly high spiked steel railings in January. See previous story. Outraged local residents have formed a campaign group to complain about the eyesore and the loss of access, and an application is being made to preserve the area as a town green.

The breach of the TPOs is being investigated by the City Council. We understand that council vehicles have visited the site recently and the damage is unmissable. We will update you as we receive comment.

The remaining woodland is clearly recoverable at this point in time, although there is much reparation required. If you see tree-felling or fly-tipping in Freeman's Wood, it is illegal. Call the police asap, take a picture / video if you can, get names and vehicle registration numbers and notify the City Council.


See images below or as a slideshow album in facebook.