Fringe Box



Council Rushes Through Preservation Order to Save Guildford Golf Club Trees

Published on: 12 May, 2023
Updated on: 12 May, 2023

Guildford Golf Club is planning to cut down the three beech trees (marked on the photo) on Monday, May 15.

By Hugh Coakley

and Emily Coady-Stemp local democracy reporter

The felling of three mature beech trees at Guildford Golf Club has been prevented after a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) were rushed through by Guildford Borough Council last night.

GBC completed the legal process at 5pm (May 11) to serve the TPO for the three trees which the golf club had planned to cut down on Monday, (May 15).

Kathy Atkinson, chair of the Surrey Hills AONB board said: “We are thrilled to hear that a Tree Preservation Order has been issued to save the three magnificent beech trees at Guildford Golf Club.

Cllr Jo Shaw

Credit must go to Cllrs Jo Shaw (Lib Dem, Merrow) and George Potter (Lib Dem, Burpham), along with Guildford Borough Council’s tree officer and his colleagues, all of whom really pulled the stops out to get this process done before the trees were due to be felled (on Monday, May 15).

Cllr George Potter

“With careful management these beauties will hopefully stand for decades to come, providing habitat for wildlife and shade (and beauty) for all of us. Thank you to everyone who took the time to stand up for these trees; we should all feel proud this morning.”

George Potter  said: “I have to imagine that the trees were there long before the golf club was.” According to its website, the golf club was established in 1886.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Another ward councillor, Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Merrow) said: “A GBC tree officer visited the site yesterday and concluded the trees are worthy of TPO. We are fast-tracking the legals and hopefully this will save the trees.

“GBC have really pulled their finger out to get this done quickly.”

Secretary of the Guildford Golf Club, Tom May, said they had tried to be transparent with the council and others. He said GBC officers confirmed they were entitled to remove the trees. He said they hadn’t expressed any opposition to the tree removal plans when they visited.

May said they had emailed the 800 club members and only three had expressed opposition.

A newsletter sent by the golf club highlighted “key reasons” for needing to cut down the trees outsides its clubhouse, including that the club would not be covered from an insurance perspective if one of them was to fall on the clubhouse.

Golf club notice – photo obtained by LDRS

Under a “health and safety” heading, the newsletter, seen by the LDRS, said: “There have been regular problems with bird droppings from the trees onto the patio seating and tables which clearly is unacceptable for club members and visitors alike, especially while they are consuming food and drink.”


Given storms in January 2022 caused a tree at the club to come down, the newsletter also said the board had decided the risks were ” too great with such large trees being so close to the clubhouse”.

The three threatened beech trees are close to the Guildford Golf Club clubhouse.

A spokesperson for Guildford Borough Council said: “We have successfully served a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on trees at Guildford Golf Club to secure the preservation of the trees in question. The council can serve these orders to protect trees that are important in our landscape.

“When we were first made aware of the club’s intentions to remove the trees in question, we advised against it. This was on the grounds that the trees were important, prominent landscape trees. Following this advice, the council found out earlier this week of the golf clubs’ intention to remove the trees. Our officers acted quicky to secure the legal protection for the trees by serving a TPO.

“Guildford Golf Club owns and is responsible for the trees on its land. The club doesn’t need to seek permission for the routine management of the trees they own. Where trees are important in the landscape or have special value within a particular area we will always act to preserve them.”

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Responses to Council Rushes Through Preservation Order to Save Guildford Golf Club Trees

  1. Sarah Davis Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    I would like to thank all thoes who worked tirelessly to save these magnificent 60ft mature Beech Trees from being felled. My thanks go to the Guildford Environmental Forum, Surrey Hills, Merrow Environmental Residence Association, Zero Carbon Guildford, to all our local councillors who supported, and the general public who sent their conerns to the Golf Club.

    Most importantly a big thank you to Guildford Borough Council, who worked fast and through the night to put tree preservation order in place to and protect these trees for all to enjoy in the future.

    Surrey is one of the most depleted counties in the UK when it comes to biodiversity, despite us being a county of vast woodlands.

    Here at GEF and Zero Carbon Guildford,  we hope to change that. Every tree counts. Thank you all for coming together as a community and standing up for nature. It needs all the help it can get.

    Sarah Davis is a member of the Biodiversity Committee for Guildford Environmental Forum, and Biodiversity Events lead for Zero Carbon Guildford 

  2. James Steel Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 3:56 pm

    Excellent work by Cllrs Potter and Shaw. Especially Shaw who’s very new to the post.

    I find it surprising that the editor chose to exclude Cllr Shaw’s comment, when Surrey Live includes it. Real shame given Jo’s new.[sic]

    James Steel is a former Lib Dem borough councillor.

    Editor’s note: The Dragon contacted by email all three Merrow ward councillors on May 10; Jo Shaw (Lib Dem), Yves de Contades (Lib Dem) and Joss Bigmore (R4GV). Only Cllr Bigmore responded, hence the inclusion in the Dragon article. The comment from George Potter was submitted as a reader’s comment but given its relevance was included in the story.

  3. Paul Spooner Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    Credit where credit is due. Congratulations to all involved in the preservation of the trees.

    I have long worried that the system is flawed in that many high-quality trees remain unprotected as they are not considered under threat.

    In my opinion, a rolling programme evaluating and protecting trees should be implemented.

    Paul Spooner is a former Conservative borough councillor.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      May 13, 2023 at 9:19 pm

      Too bad that former councillor Paul Spooner was not so concerned with the survival of trees, when he signed off his despised Local Plan. It has led to the destruction of many trees to make way for developers’ profit.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      May 14, 2023 at 7:24 am

      Credit where credit is due indeed. How about Mr Spooner taking credit for the thousands of trees and hedgerows destroyed, as a result of his ruinous Local Plan?

    • Jim Allen Reply

      May 14, 2023 at 5:18 pm

      I think protection of our trees has a wonderful “Marshal in Chief” by the name of Donna Collinson of Stoke Road fame. She has, for the past two or more years, been out marching the footpaths and byways of Guildford with a bit of string, a tape measure and clip board checking on any tree which is worthy of recording.

      She has been trying to record each and every beech, oak and willow and other specimens, in between trying to instigate the extension of the AONB in our borough.

      She’s unsung and rarely heard of, but doing the job voluntarily for which the council, as arbitors of all things borough, should at least provide the string!

  4. Frances Tauzer Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    I hope there’s a report saying the trees are in no danger of falling in a storm, otherwise, the club could keep making the claim “trees in danger of falling on Club so have to be removed” to their members (and the public) to get approval for the action.

    As for the trees leading to birds perching and leaving droppings on the patio, that seems like a relatively easy fix of some kind of canopy or cover so guests can relax outside without that potential hazard.

  5. Sam Peters Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    Fantastic news – a testament to the public outcry and the hard work of the local councillors mentioned and officers (including Tim Holman, planning officer who deals with TPOs). These mature, healthy trees provide habitats for hundreds of different species – potentially including bats and owls – as well as sequestering carbon, helping prevent flooding, and more.

    The concern and anger displayed by Guildford residents shows just how much we value our nature and wildlife for these reasons but also in a more intangible cultural sense.

    But vigilance is important – trees and nature generally are under threat not just in Guildford but nationwide, and often the fine for breaching TPOs is considered the ‘cost of doing business’ for developers and others.

    It wasn’t long ago that councillors and other campaigners in Sheffield were camping in urban trees to (successfully) stop their felling. It may not have come to that here, but let’s remain vigilant – we aren’t out of the woods yet.

  6. Fiona Fieldus Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 6:13 pm

    I am delighted that GBC acted so swiftly to avert what, in my eyes, would have been a selfish act of environmental vandalism. These trees are so beautiful.

    I am also so inspired by the way the community came together to spread the word. Thank you to everyone for saving these trees, which I am lucky enough to walk beneath daily.

  7. M Durant Reply

    May 12, 2023 at 11:47 pm

    Finally some good news, beautiful trees. Well done to everyone involved.

  8. John Baxter Reply

    May 13, 2023 at 2:02 pm

    It’s funny how the GBC could act very swiftly in this matter, yet far more important planning consents take literally years to conclude, with developers and applicants being led up the garden path for years and then told the development is refused.

    A culture of ‘nothing must ever change’ pervades this council, which has a complete inability to make a positive decision (unless it is to save three trees on private property).

  9. Pat Gallagher Reply

    May 14, 2023 at 11:14 am

    “Give us the grace to accept with serenity
    the things that cannot be changed,
    Courage to change the things which should be changed,
    And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
    [Written in 1934 by Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971, US theologian, writer and teacher.]

    Shame that nothing could have been done about the amount of tree felling for M25 Junction 10 at Wisley though! Especially now that SMART motorway “improvements” have been cancelled.

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