Wandsworth Labour has called on Wandsworth Council to halt its current plans to fell almost all of the 80-odd trees on Tooting Common’s Chestnut Avenue after a new independent report cast serious doubts on the Council’s claims that the trees cannot be saved due to disease and age.
According to the independent report by tree consultant and specialist in heritage tree assessments, Jeremy Barrell, the bulk of the trees which Wandsworth Council claim are terminally ill are in fact “recovering” and have “the potential to live for at least several decades, and many for much longer”.
Indeed, the report states that the avenue’s mature trees, some of which are 140 years old: “are at the peak of their potential to deliver multiple benefits [such as ecological enhancement, pollution filtering, carbon sequestration, UV light reduction, visual enhancement, and positive contributions to human health and wellbeing] because they are big, experienced by many people daily and have the potential to be retained into the long term”.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, MP for Tooting, cllr Candida Jones and #stopthechop supporters
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting said: “it’s clear now that the Council’s wish to cut down this beautiful avenue was motivated by money. Because a grant to fell and replace the avenue was available from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Council thought it could save a quick buck rather than use Council funds to properly maintain and preserve the existing, well-loved, avenue. The Council has been economical with the truth about the health of these trees and should not be prioritising saving money over maintaining its parks and open spaces”.
When the future of the trees was voted on in committee last year, Labour’s speaker on Community Services, Fleur Anderson, secured an assurance that any healthy trees would be saved.
At the time, the Council advised that only eight trees were in good enough condition to survive. However the new report shows that this was a serious under-estimation.
Fleur Anderson said: “No-one wants to see our much-loved and beautiful chestnut trees being cut down if they don’t need to be. It is very good news that there is new evidence that the trees are recovering from the disease which the council said was killing them. The council now needs to halt its current plans, take stock of this new report and provide a new, genuinely unbiased, independent report on the future of the trees that the Committee and residents can have faith in”.
She added: “I have been in regular contact with the Council on this issue over many months and council officers have assured me and my colleagues that should any tree represent a danger, it would be immediately felled – an approach which we of course support. It shouldn’t, however, be used as an excuse for the wholesale removal of a well-loved local landmark”.
Almost 5,000 residents have signed a petition asking the Council not to fell the healthy trees and regular protests and events have been organised by the #StoptheChop campaign.
The petition is here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-trees-on-chestnut-avenue
Jeremy Barrell concluded: “My assessment of the trees is that none are dangerous, none are dead, and most have the potential to be retained with limited intervention for decades. Wandsworth Council are justifying the removals on the basis of responses from a public consultation and the advice of experts. From what I can see the public consultation approach is obviously flawed and none of the expert reports advocate felling and replacement as the best or only option”.