Campaigners furious as Wandsworth Council chop down ‘diseased’ avenue of horse chestnuts on Tooting Common
Residents have blasted Wandsworth Council after they chopped down an historic row of trees on Tooting Common this week to end a long-running dispute.
Council chiefs ignored homeowners’ demands to save what was known as Chestnut Avenue and cut down 51 horse chestnuts on Tuesday.
They claimed they were diseased and posed a risk to public safety should branches fall off, with 74% of respondents to a public consultation last year agreeing all the trees affected by bleeding canker should be replaced.
But the trees had stood in Chestnut Avenue for more than 140 years and residents were unhappy with the consultation, setting up a petition which gathered more than 6,500 signatures.
Campaigner Francine Forde said: “The council had the money in place before going to consultation, they couldn’t lose this.
“The questions were loaded and directed in a way to ensure they wouldn’t.
“Less than 700 took part in their consultation, more than 6,500 signed our petition.”
London Tree Officer Ian Dalton agreed with the residents and tweeted: “Those trees were all healthy. They were felled at least 40 years too early.”
Wandsworth Council posted several pictures and videos which show the decay and damage to some of the trees on Chestnut Avenue.
— Wandsworth Council (@wandbc) September 28, 2017
They said many were found to be affected by previously undetected decay and rot, with four out of five trees next to the children’s playground having cavities and signs of root decay.
However, residents believe only a small number of trees posed a risk to public safety and have called on the council to post pictures of each tree that was cut down.
Mrs Forde said: “We’ve been fighting for more than a year and have been a cross party, civil minded, community group.
“All we have ever asked is to test and save the healthy trees, of course unhealthy ones should go.
“We’ve asked for transparency and to see images to compare against reports but have been shown only one YouTube video of a diseased branch (not a trunk) which clearly indicates they are hiding the truth.”
Wandsworth Council are replacing the trees with 64 semi-mature trees and their environment spokesman Councillor Jonathan Cook said: “Planting a new replacement avenue that will grow and thrive on the common for the next 100 years and beyond was the clear and overwhelming verdict expressed by local people during last summer’s extensive public consultation.
“Residents recognised that if the avenue was to survive as a landmark feature then action was required.
“No-one wanted to lose big trees that have stood on the common for so many years, so the decision to remove was not taken at all lightly.
“We thought long and hard about whether it would be possible to pursue a more intensive regime of maintenance, combined with removal and replacement where necessary.
“However, this would have led to an increasingly random collection of extensively cut back trees of varying sizes and ages, many of which could still pose a risk.
“One collapsed without warning near the tennis courts last winter despite appearing to be in good health, while another had to be removed in June after it was found to be riddled with decay and posing an immediate threat to passers-by.
“What we found this week was confirmation that many of these trees were suffering extensive internal decay and were posing an ever-increasing risk to passers-by.”