Hellens Group



Hellens Group, the North East-based property and construction firm developing Darlington’s Burtree Garden Village in partnership with Homes England, has committed to conserving a rare species of tree found growing on its site.

While carrying out an inspection of the proposed garden village, surveyors from environmental consultancy firm Wardell Armstrong were delighted to discover two large, mature native black poplar trees in the centre of the site.

Once a common species, there are now only around 7000 native black poplars left in the UK, making it the rarest timber tree in the UK. While they are more usually found in the South, the poplar population in the North is almost exclusively in Darlington, which houses around 30, including a handful of the rarer female trees.

As part of its initial design of Burtree Garden Village, the team at Hellens has integrated several green, tree-friendly spaces, as well as introducing an arboretum, which was started last year as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy project.

In addition to fully protecting the two native black poplars discovered during the survey, and a third younger tree which shares characteristics with the species, a specialist propagator and tree nursery will be engaged to grow new specimens from cuttings.

Gavin Cordwell-Smith, chief executive at Hellens Group said: “It is essential to us that the Burtree Garden Village preserves green and natural space while providing housing and amenities to local people.

“We know that Darlington has a rich history as being one of the few places in the UK where you can still find native black poplars, so it was incredible to find that we will have two providing the centrepiece to the village. It immediately gives it a sense of place, which is very important to us.

“We are also looking forward to working with Wardell Armstrong and the team to help increase the population of this rare but majestic species of tree.”

Moray Simpson, technical director and service lead for arboriculture at Wardell Armstrong, said: “We were very excited to find two native black poplars (Populus Nigra Betulifolia), while surveying the site of Burtree Garden Village.

“We’ll be working closely with Hellens Group to ensure the existing trees are protected, and that any new trees cultivated from the specimens have homes within the village or the wider Darlington community.

“It’s a fantastic project to be involved with.”


Notes to Editors:

Issued on behalf of Hellens Group

Contact Josh Mason 01325 363436

About Hellens Group:

The Hellens Group, with offices in Washington, Stockton-on-Tees and Catterick, incorporates a number of property, construction, manufacturing and social enterprise businesses with interests throughout the North East, Tees Valley and Yorkshire.

The original business (John Hellens (Contracts) Ltd) was founded in 1973 to focus on the regeneration of brownfield sites; the company became leading experts in the field. Hellens Group has significantly expanded and adapted to changing market conditions, moving into sports and recreation facility construction, social housing, land and property development and investment as well as manufacturing of hard landscaping products for the building industry.



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Gavin Cordwell-Smith, CEO at Hellens Group (left), pictured with company director Kate Hellens, and technical director at Wardell Armstrong LLP, Helen Kennedy
Gavin Cordwell-Smith, CEO at Hellens Group (left), pictured with company director Kate Hellens, and technical director at Wardell Armstrong LLP, Helen Kennedy
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