Planning Permission application to manage poplar trees

York Racecourse is aware of comments on Social Media and of the actions of some parents and some children at Knavesmire Primary School with regard to the planning application to manage the risk posed by ageing poplar trees on the eastern boundary of one of the car parks.

None of the individuals concerned have spoken to the team at York Racecourse and we are not sure they appreciate the age, risks or low ecological value of these poplars nor the Racecourse plans to replace them with eight beech trees that are indigenous to the area and will support far more biodiversity, for many generations to come. 

The Head of Knavesmire Primary School has been keen to stress that any objection to the planning application is not supported nor endorsed by the school.  Knavesmire Primary School has a very positive and longstanding relationship with York Racecourse. 

York Racecourse believes that the due process of the planning application is the forum to engage with any concerns; as such a route gives access to the full facts.  Included in that planning application process, so available for public review, is an independent report conducted by Wold Trees following a Quantified Tree Risk Assessment.  This followed an incident when a branch fell from a poplar and damaged garden furniture in an adjacent property.   The report concluded that the poplars were in “…poor structural condition”, moreover that as they are of “.low ecological value, we recommend the removal of the tress of the Lombardy Poplars and replacement with Beech trees”.  They conclude the “Risk of Harm is unacceptable”.

York Racecourse is active in managing the stock of trees on its site and is simply following the expert recommendation in applying to replace the poplars which have reached the end of their natural life, with a treeline of beeches, fit for the next generation.  Indeed, within the last five years York Racecourse planted 17 semi mature trees on the western boundary of this car park.

The trees were originally planted in the 1960s to provide a screen from the Terrys Chocolate Factory and are now reported to be brittle, 27m high and within 10m of the perimeter which has changed its use into adjacent residential housing which adds further weight to the need to manage the trees. The report considers that these new circumstances “elevates a previously negligible level of risk” with regards to potential damage from failure in whole or part of these trees.  Over the last ten years, these poplars have been actively managed with targeted dead limb removal and removal of individual specimens – the point has come where they now need to be replaced by new, young, appropriate species that are more fitting to the area.

To address other concerns, in general terms, the poplar is considered a very poor tree in terms of its bio diversity, in these specific examples there is no evidence of any nesting activity. To the contrary, the proposed replacement beech trees with their rounded canopy would, in time, be a genuine positive addition to the local environment.

The conclusion of the professional report says of the poplar trees, “they perfectly fulfil the maxim of being the wrong trees in the wrong place”.

The report also notes that the grassed car park is currently used by the local primary school and York Racecourse is currently pleased to continue to offer this space, free of charge, to its neighbour. All parties would want this area to be considered safe.

The formal planning process will make its recommendations in due course.