Saturday, 17 November 2018

RAF base wants to reduce height of trees for safety

PEOPLE living near RAF Benson are to have their garden trees cut back amid fears they are

PEOPLE living near RAF Benson are to have their garden trees cut back amid fears they are interfering with navigation radar.

A meeting of Benson Parish Council heard there were fears that the base could lose contact with a helicopter, causing it to crash, if action is not taken.

The RAF says only a small number of trees is causing the problem but that it’s “imperative” they are cut back.

Councillor Fiona Lovesey said: “Some of the trees surrounding some of the airfield in parishioners’ gardens will have to be looked at because they are interfering with radar, so it’s flight safety.

“If they lose contact there could be a crash or the aircraft could come down.

“We have got to identify which the houses are so they can be contacted. The RAF will pay for the tree surgery or to have the trees cut down.”

Some councillors asked what would happen if a tree was protected by a tree preservation order.

Councillor Philip Murray said he believed an air regulation order would override the preservation order. Councillor Dave Olley asked if whole trees would have to be removed.

Cllr Lovesey replied: “The maximum height a tree can be is seven metres.”

Cllr Olley said “That’s 21ft — that’s not very tall. A poplar will grow to 80ft.”

Gp Capt Simon Paterson, station commander at RAF Benson, said: “Following a routine airfield survey at RAF Benson, it has been identified that a small number of trees in the area is impacting on flight safety owing to their size.

“In order to allow safe approaches to the airfield we must ensure that these trees do not interfere with the navigational equipment, therefore it is imperative that action is taken to reduce the height of these trees.

“Any action taken will be fully agreed with the landowners concerned and the relevant local government departments, including those responsible for tree preservation orders.”

Tom Stevenson, a parish councillor and chairman of the Benson Environmental Study Team, suggested that homeowners should be compensated.

He said: “If you’ve got a prized tree in your garden and you’ve nurtured it for 40 years, really you ought be offered some sort of compensation.”

He said the work should not take place during the nesting season between March and August and that the trees should be checked for bats and owls.

He added: “It would reassuring to know from somebody qualified and independent that this work is absolutely essential and not, as it might be thought, to allow these aircraft to fly at a lower height across the village.”

It’s not the first time the base has taken steps to ensure the safety of its aircraft.

In 2014 the Henley Standard reported that red kites straying on to the airfield would be shot if there was a risk of collision with an aircraft.

Natural England, in conjunction with the RSPB and the base, wrote to villagers urging them not to feed the birds following four collisions between aircraft and red kites.

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standrard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road. Henley RG9 1AD or email

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