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Watchdog raps weekly over claim that ‘ancient trees’ would be cut down

A weekly newspaper has been rapped by the press watchdog for reporting that “ancient trees” would be chopped down as part of a property development.

The Independent Press standards Organisation has upheld a complaint against the Reading Chronicle after it made the claim in its coverage of a planning application.

The coverage prompted a complaint from property company Englefield Estate, which said the planning application made clear that no trees would be felled.

The Chronicle denied its coverage had been significantly misleading, but IPSO sided with Englefield Estate, agreeing use of the term “woodland” in the application related to the removal of shrubs and low-lying bushes rather than trees.


Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Englefield Estate said the planning application made clear that no trees would be cut down, but that some small shrubs and bushes may be removed to clear a pathway.

The agency also claimed an initial story run by the Chronicle was inaccurate because it reported that the houses were going to be built “on Burghfield Common” which is protected common land, as opposed to in Burghfield Common, being the name of the village where the building would in fact take place.

It further complained about a follow-up piece which still referenced woodland being “felled”, which the company said could only refer to trees.

It did not consider that the impression given by this misleading term was remedied by the inclusion of the statement from their spokesman, who had confirmed that there were no proposals to remove any trees.

Denying any breach of Code, the Chronicle did not believe the use of “trees” rather than “woodland” was misleading and said the reference was amended the day after the company made direct contact with the publication, believing the word “felled” was appropriate when referring to the removal of woodland.

The paper added the position was also made clear in the second article by the inclusion of the statement made by the complainant’s spokesperson, and in a third article which was not under complaint.

The Chronicle denied it was inaccurate to refer to the houses being built “on” as opposed to “in” or “at” Burghfield Common, but offered to clarify that the original story was referring to the village.

It further offered to publish a clarification making clear no trees were planned to be felled during the development process, but this was rejected by the company.

IPSO found the Chronicle was inaccurate in reporting that “ancient trees will be chopped down”.

Taken as a whole, it also found the information in the story regarding the location of the proposed housing and the potential harm which would be caused to the local area was misleading as it compounded the inaccuracy that ancient trees were to be chopped down.

However, it concluded the single reference to woodland being “felled” was not significantly misleading.

The complaint was upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

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  • March 31, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Difficult to see any important details the paper actually to get correct. They could at least have admitted they were in the wrong.

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