Residents living close to Tooting Common have responded angrily to Wandsworth Council’s proposal to close Chestnut Avenue, which runs across Tooting Common, to all users for up to six months.
While the avenue is closed, the Council intends to fell an avenue of Chestnut trees which line it and replace them with saplings. The project is to be paid for using a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Chestnut Avenue is a well-loved landmark used by commuting cyclists, families, visitors to the tennis courts, the playground, the local cafe and participants in the weekly Park Run event and an annual pumpkin parade.
Speaking about the Council’s decision to close Chestnut Avenue, Fleur Anderson, the local councillor and Labour’s Speaker on Community Services, said; “I strongly object to the very extended closure of the Avenue, and so will local residents. This long closure is very heavy handed. The Council, which originally said the work would take no more than 6 weeks, has not explained what will happen to the on-going users of the Avenue, including commuting cyclists and families who use it daily”.
Opposition to the felling of the trees has been vocal with over 5,000 people signing a petition to oppose the council’s plans.
The Council has cited health and safety reasons for removing the trees. However, opponents of the plan point to a lack of evidence for the need to remove the avenue on health and safety grounds.
According to Fleur Anderson, “the committee which voted on the plans to fell the Avenue agreed to save as many trees as possible and there was unanimous agreement that we should save healthy trees. I have repeatedly asked for an updated report into the health of the trees but have yet to receive a reply”.
According to Jeremy Barrell, tree consultant and specialist in heritage tree assessments; “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”.
Opponents of the plan to fell the Avenue claim that the Council’s decision to cut down the trees is motivated by the offer of a grant. They have arranged a final community event to mark the avenue’s final days, called The Final Draw when residents will be encouraged to record the trees by painting, drawing and photographing them.