Council left counting cost of Tooting Chainsaw Massacre that saw dozens of trees felled

Residents have reacted with anger after Tooting Council spent more than £80,000 on felling 50 horse chestnut trees – some of which were still healthy.

The council claimed that the trees were in a poor condition before going ahead with the felling, now dubbed the  ‘Tooting Chainsaw Massacre.’

A subsequent petition was signed by more than 6,500 names, including that of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Wandsworth council initially proposed covering the costs of the project with a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, but went above and beyond on spending to pay for the 150-year-old trees’ replacement and dipping significantly into the taxpayer’s pocket to pay for a project that the community were opposed to.

Save Chestnut Avenue group member Adam Seymour-Davies said: “When we learned that such a staggering amount of taxpayers’ money was spent on the avenue we felt lied to.”

Fleur Anderson, Labour’s Speaker on Community Services, echoed Mr Seymour-Davies’s sentiments.

She said: “It has been frustrating that the council didn’t listen to local people and save the healthy trees, it was devastating when the trees were all cut down, and now it shocking to find out the actual costs of the whole debacle.”

It has since been confirmed that many of the felled trees were in fact healthy and could have remained.

Following inspections from arborist Jeremy Barrell, three of the trees were declared healthy and could purportedly have survived for decades with responsible maintenance.

Mr Seymour-Davies added: “Wandsworth Council still insist that the trees were a danger and this makes me feel so frustrated.

“It is so sad that so many healthy trees were needlessly cut down just to save the council money in future maintenance costs.”

The final figure also included £21,377 which the Council spent on security measures like a 10 foot metal wall, and guard dogs after disgruntled residents held a peaceful candle-lit vigil for the trees chestnut avenue.

Mr Seymour-Davies said: “The staggering amount of money that the council spent on security was completely unnecessary.

“Our campaign has been peaceful and polite from the word go, and the candle-lit vigil was an example of that.

“The day before the mass felling commenced, we encouraged the community to join us at dawn – when the work was to begin – for a quiet vigil to mark the end of the avenue as we knew it.

“When we were greeted by a van load of barking police dogs and a mass of security guards, we were stunned!”

The HLF have disassociated themselves from the felling, having awarded a £1.3 million grant in July 2015 for a wide ranging project for the conservation of Tooting Commom.

A HLF spokesman said: “The Council’s decision on the chosen option went through their democratic process and HLF would not seek to challenge this.

“More new trees have been planted than those removed and while we recognise that some local people will be concerned, this is a pragmatic approach to securing a long-term, healthy and safe tree-lined avenue for everyone.”

Candida Jones, Furzedown Labour Councillor, said: “Quite apart from the waste of public money, what I also find shocking is the Council’s total disconnect from the people it purports to represent.

“This isn’t just a Council that doesn’t listen, it’s a Council that treats its residents with contempt”.

Now that the new trees are in place other concerns have been raised by residents like the size of the new trees which are 7ft shorter than were promised by the council.

There are also concerns about the budget allocated for maintaining the new trees, with only £2,048 available.

Mr Seymour-Davies said: “Now that it’s clear that the council has so drastically overspent on this project I do worry that the trees won’t get the attention they need.

“The community feels very strongly that the council must be held to account for embarking on a project that nobody wanted

“The most effective way of delivering justice will be in the council elections in May 2018 and we will be encouraging people to vote out the Councillors responsible for this wanton vandalism.”

Related Articles