Plans to turn much of an “unviable” farm near Hadrian’s Wall into a major woodland are being opposed by conservation chiefs.
The proposal is to cover 47 hectares of the 113-hectare Wallshield upland farm, which is 6km north of Haltwhistle and 3km from the Wall. It is also within the Hadrian’s Wall world heritage site buffer zone.
The aim is to plant 31 hectares with conifers and 15.6 hectares with broadleaf trees.
There are some existing small conifer and mixed shelter belts present and the application would effectively join these together to form a single larger block of woodland of 50.5 hectares.
The bid, under the English Woodland Grant Scheme, has gone to the Forestry Commission, which has passed the plans to Northumberland National Park Authority members today for comment.
The farm is on the upper catchment of the Tipalt Burn in the Thirlwall Common Character Area, which is characterised by open moorland. “The application would more than double the amount of tree cover present in the entire character area of 2,478 hectares, indicting the significance of the scheme,” says a report to park authority members.
The land management guidelines for this area are to “discourage any large scale planting of new woodland.”
The report says: “It is understood that the views of the applicant are that Wallshield Farm is increasingly becoming unviable to manage as an upland hill farm and the woodland scheme is thought to be a more attractive option.”
The report claims that the woodland is likely to be visible from sensitive locations including the Pennine Way and Hadrian’s Wall national trails, the Pennine Cycleway and local rights of way.
There are also concerns over the impact on ground nesting birds which are likely to use the grassland such as curlew, lapwing and snipe and on the landscape character of the world heritage site corridor and existing rights of way as the woodland develops.
The recommendation is that the park authority should object to the scheme, although it is the Forestry Commission which will make the decision.
Government policy has set a target to increase woodland cover across England from 10% to 12% by 2060.