Monday, 25 October 2010

Un-Poplar Decision

Barring a last minute reprieve, the felling of up to 21 of Worcester Park's iconic lombardy poplar trees will commence this morning.

Kingston Council claims that the trees, which line Malden Green on the approach to Worcester Park, are showing signs of fungal brackets around their bases which 'could' indicate that the internal structure of the trees has been compromised thus making them potentially unstable.

Councillor David Fraser has led calls for Kingston Council to halt the felling of the trees pending further investigations, whilst Sutton Conservatives have raised fears that removal of the trees could affect the water table, exacerbating ongoing flood problems from Beverly Brook which runs alongside Malden Green.

There are no plans to replace any of the trees which are scheduled to be cut down.

18 COMMENTS (Add Yours Now!):

Barbyk said...

Sad story about these beautiful trees . I suppose like everything else, the decision to cut them down is due to money not aesthetics. It would be too inconvenient and expensive for the council to invest a bit of time and money to investigate further with a view to saving them. Shame on them!

Jeff said...

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LOCAL DEMOCRACY? Local residents were totally ignored when a number of us, Councillor David Fraser and a Surrey Comet reporter turned up at 8 a.m. for an arranged meeting with a Kingston Council repesentative to discuss the trees. We were going to alert the council to the extra flooding the removal of the trees will cause (quite apart from the loss of their amenity value) and ask for a second opinion on the trees from an independent qualified tree surgeon.

The Kingston Council representative didn't even bother to turn up and left us standing around in the cold for 45 minutes. What did turn up was an assorted collection of heavy vehicles with tree removing equipment on board who began the programme of tree removal.

This whole business is a public relations disaster for Kingston Council who have shown their complete contempt for concerned local residents to the point of Gross Misconduct.

I would like to thank everyone who phoned and e-mailed Kingston Council in an attempt to save the trees, signed David Fraser's petition and those who turned up for this morning's 'no show' meeting.

Anonymous said...

real shame, they are lovely trees and really make us stand out from other boring suburbs as you drive into Worcester park

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous, especially the not replacing them bit. As it is the tree situation is so haphazard in Wozza. Forest Side has some trees lining the road but then Fullbrooks Ave. has nothing, despite the grass verges, and no plans for any either. Apparently one can put forward a 'wishlist' which is not fulfillable or stump up £350 per tree oneself??

Oakey D'Oak said...

Why haven't we heard about this before today?!

Have notices been placed somewhere by both councils for the public to view?

Astounded that this can happen.

coffee man said...

have you seen the trunks of those cut down so far .they are rotten and could have fallen any time .they apparently were past saving and there is funding to replace those cut down.
well done the Council.

Barbyk said...

Coffee man, how do you know there is funding to replace them? I haven't seen the trunks so of course can't pass comment. If this is the case, then I do apologise to the council for my negativity..think it's going to be a case of 'watch this space'. What trees are they replacing them with? Hope it's the same type

Anonymous said...

Well said coffee man. As a species, Lombardy Poplars are apparently particularly prone to disease because they are fast growing. They have a naturally short lifespan of around 50- 70 years and as these trees have now been there about that long they are all just reaching the end of their life at the same time- it is no coincidence! I agree that it’s very sad they are to go, but if they are naturally dying then there’s not much else that can be done- you can’t wait for them to fall when they’re next to a busy road. The amount of pollution they must be subjected to on that road over the years probably hasn’t helped them.

So if there is a danger from the trees then as a resident that travels past them everyday, the Council has my full support to remove them before it’s too late, so please don’t think you speak for all local residents Jeff. I also think that if there is a danger then it’s highly irresponsible of Cllr Fraser to pander to poplar- ism (sorry!) and contradict the expert Tree Officers assessment. Would he take responsibility if one did fall and cause an injury or would he also then blame the Council Officers for not acting quickly enough to remove it?! Perhaps it would be more productive for the the Cllrs and concerned residents to focus their efforts into a campaign to replace the trees, which I would fully support.

Lord Cynic of Lindsay said...

I suspect "the man with the plan" woke up this morning, rolled over, thought "Ganoderma Schmanoderma" or maybe "Lombardy Schmombardy" and went back to sleep.........that's what I did. On the bright side, sometimes the stumps of the poplars shoot up again - that's a free tree, like the elms have been doing for 40 years. There is also a fantastic young oak growing at the entrance to the Manor Drive, next to the road name sign, which I have been watching for around 20 years HOPING that the mad axemen weren't going to fell it for its proximity to the road name sign. Amazingly it has survived and is right next to one of the felled trees.
The Council has also "back-planted" the greens in recent years, INCLUDING some Lombardy Poplars. It was obvious why they were doing this (although I thought the area was supposed to be greens, not woodland) and although there may not be the complete landmark avenue, at least there are lots of nice maturing trees - and still with some big Lombardies left.
Incidentally, poplars root very easily from cuttings. Sticking a few 6 foot "whips" into the ground at the right time, taken from the remaining trees, would cost nothing and would probably grow away very fast. Any volunteers ?

Jeff said...

Anonymous - what those of us who objected to the removal of these trees wanted was an opinion from an independent qualified tree surgeon - not the Council's tame 'tree expert'.

That's what Councillor David Fraser was asking for - it is not irresponsible or pandering to the public to ask for a second (and more qualified) opinion when WP's best-known landmark is concerned.

Obviously, if the professional said the trees were a danger we would all agree that they should be removed in the interests of safety. But the Council has steadfastly refused to discuss the matter with local residents - right down to arranging an 8 a.m. meeting with us and then not turning up.

Based on leaf loss, a good indication of tree health, only one of these trees appeared to be dying. If a tree looks healthy and its foliage is healthy, then it's probably a healthy tree.

Coffeeman - the stumps I saw today did not look hollow, I shall take another look tomorrow.

Anyway Anonymous and Coffeeman, you have got what you wanted, the approach to Worcester Park will soon be an eyesore as that graceful avenue of Poplars is decimated.

When wet weather comes and those trees are not there to remove 2100 gallons of water daily from the ground and prevent flooding will you still be saying "Well done Council"?

Anonymous said...

they have to replace them, they just have to, i didnt know you could just cut down trees like this and not replace like for like. Imagine if you were to fell a few trees in your own garden, i bet most of them would have preservation orders on them!

coffee man said...

It's not what i wanted, but if they are near the end of thier life (60/70 years)as has been reported by earlier contributors and are rotten. Then they are a safety hazard and should be felled.I hope you have found time to look at the trunks/stumps this morning.You will notice that there are a number that are virtually hollow in the middle.
It can however be argued that Kingston Council have handled this affair quite badly and should have been more responsive to residents concerns.With more consultation prior to plans for felling being made.

Anonymous said...

The following link might be useful for those of you who would like to complain (or at-least request new trees).

Jeff said...

Coffee Man, I went down there this morning and they had cut down 6 trees by that point. Three were indeed rotten in the middle and needed to come down, no doubt about that, but the other three had solid healthy heartwood at their centres.

I think the Council knew that a number of the trees were due for removal and thought "While we're at it..."

It will be interesting to see how many they remove in total: the 21 they originally told residents, the 14 they later mentioned or less once they realised WP residents were on the case. And it will be interesting to tote up how many were rotten and how many had healthy centres.

axlrocky said...

surprising lack of political comments from our elected representatives, you couldnt get the liberals off this blog during the election campaign yet they are now strangely silent, I suspect that six months ago you would have had Clegg Davey and Burstow tied to the trees to save them, better things to do now I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff, I agree that a second opinion may have been a good idea in this case given the irreversible nature of the decision. My comments were based on the assumption that the Council Tree Officers assessment was fairly accurate as there seems no real reason to doubt this as you suggest- presumably he has the relevant qualifications/ experience if he’s doing the job?

I take no pleasure in their removal as I do find them very beautiful and I completely agree with you that the road will look awful as a result - I wish they could stay there for another 50 years. But I refer to my earlier comments about the particular frailty and short lifespan of this species and it does seem that some we’re rotten. If some of them did have a stay of execution then they probably wouldn’t last many years longer before the same thing happened to them. With the wonderful gift of hindsight they probably should’ve planted a longer lasting species in the first place. But as we are where we are, then I was just making the point that the Council has to make the difficult choice on safety grounds and they’d get criticised either way which is a bit unfair.

Anyway at least now they can replant the avenue with all the same trees (not Poplars again though) that will grow at the same rate and which will hopefully look just as good in years to come.

Anonymous said...

Are the trees being replaced? it would be a shame if they weren't. Perhaps we could launch a campaign through this blog?

Huey said...

Not knowing about this un-pop(u)lar decision at all, my first experience was on the morning of the actual cutting as I cycled passed on an occasional commute, from the Avenue towards New Malden.

Felling was obviously well advanced, as my initial reaction was "Gosh, isn't it bright along this bit?". It's amazing how much light those poplars actually took out!

Now before anyone lambasts me for believing that I think light absorption is worse than water absorption, I haven't given an opinion on this, only that it was much brighter than normal, with a feeling of openness to the section of road (unusual in built up areas).

I actually do like avenues of trees, and poplars are particularly impressive, but even whilst cycling past I could see the reason for their demise - rot. Large dark brown areas were easily apparent within the cut stumps.

Now, I don't know whether removing all the trees is wholly justified, but I am sympathetic to the fact that if the majority are rotten, and the remainder are nearing the end of their life (as has been alluded to) then the lot should really come out, if only for the economics of machinery and noise just the one time.

Wouldn't it be rather a waste of money if every time the council's "tame" tree expert made a decision it had to be verified by an "independent" tree surgeon? It seems an appropriate decision was in this case.

Think beyond that though, *when* (hopefully, not *if*) a new avenue of trees is planted, that a mix of mature and young trees would not look so fine. I see no reason why poplars cannot be replanted though, especially if the rot was a function of their longevity and not "caught" from their environment.

I do feel the council could have given out some information before time though, perhaps so that local MPs could post it up on their own websites to inform the populous. As has been mentioned, it looks rather inconsistent to have splashed headlines about emotive topics at election time, but all quiet with such an emotive topic as tree felling. Perhaps the local representatives have lost their touch and their ears are no longer to the ground?

Let's hope the council don't 'forget' to replant, with the good bloggers of WP to remind them.

Not every tree has a Tree Preservation Order on it, but it's always wise to check, as the fine can be significant for damage or removal of a tree covered by a TPO. Your local council should be able to tell you if there is a TPO in any particular area but even if there isn't, it's always nice to replant at least what you felled, even if it's not in the same location.

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