Goodbye to the trees: Wandsworth Council spend more than £20,000 on security against tree campaigners – including mums, retirees, and a vicar

By Rhiannon Long

January 6 2018, 17:55

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Wandsworth Council spent £83,348 chopping down chestnut trees in Tooting Common, despite pledging it would be funded by a £45,000 Heritage Lottery Fund, figures show.

Just over a quarter of that sum was spent on security measures during the felling, including guard dogs, police and a ten foot metal wall.

The destruction faced a huge backlash from the Tooting community – 6,500 signed a petition urging the council to reconsider and a candlelit vigil was held by the Save Chestnut Avenue campaign group.

Candida Jones, Labour Councillor for Furzedown Ward, was one of the most vocal campaigners.

“This was done to save very small sums of money – up to 3 grand a year – which has now been reduced,” she said. “If you want to see the impact of cuts – have a look, here they are.

“It’s emblematic of a council that is totally incapable of revising its plans in light of what residents tell them.

“Wandsworth Council became so entrenched in the belief that this was a good idea they absolutely couldn’t revise that. They could show no ability to empathise with the local people.”

Public funds were used to make up the rest of the money the grant wouldn’t cover.

“I was absolutely, genuinely gobsmacked,” she said.

“And the issue wasn’t just an overspend that was eye-watering. There’s a playground that was needed in the Nightingale Square homeless hostel costing £40,000 and the council said we don’t have the funds for that.

“So we have 150 children in a homeless hostel with no outside space because the council can’t fund it, but here they can find 40 grand to chop the trees down.”

Of the £83,000, just £6,000 was spent on buying the trees – and £7,000 on planting them. A whopping two grand went towards “clearing up” costs and almost £400 was spent on road diversion signs.

Wandsworth Council decided to remove the trees on Chestnut Avenue after citing them as dangerous through old age and disease. An independent survey commissioned by Save Chestnut Avenue found no threat was posed by the trees.