Consult our community before cutting down our trees

Chestnut Avenue, the Tooting Common path lined with 140 year-old horse chestnuts
Chestnut Avenue, the Tooting Common path lined with 140-year-old horse chestnuts

On February 12, Wandsworth council announced that it had successfully bid for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for the restoration of heritage features on Tooting Common.

Included in the bid is a grant to replace the 77 trees which line Chestnut Avenue, the path which runs from Dr Johnson Avenue, past the swings and slides, to the café on the common. 67 of the trees are 140 year-old horse chestnuts.

According to Wandsworth Council, 20 of these trees are suffering from bleeding canker disease, two are dead and two are terminally diseased. Of the remaining trees, 57 are healthy. According to arboreal experts, trees can and do recover from bleeding canker disease.

Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, said: “I am very concerned by Wandsworth Council’s plan to cut down 77 mature Chestnut trees on Tooting Common, 57 of which I understand are healthy. These trees are a local landmark and their removal would deprive a generation of the pleasures of a tree-lined avenue.

I am particularly concerned that, despite assurances that the Council would consult, no consultation has taken place. I am told that community groups were explicitly asked not to share the proposals with their members. Without consultation, this decision by the Council appears to be motivated more by the offer of external funding than by the need to replace the trees, which could be replaced over time from Council funds”.

On 15 February, Sadiq Khan launched a petition asking the Council to launch a full consultation prior to agreeing to remove any trees and wrote to the Council requesting further clarification of its proposals. He said: “as part of this consultation the Council should present residents with a range of options. These could include the replacement of the trees over time rather than in one go, as or when needed. It is vital that local residents hear the expert advice which supports each option, allowing them to make their own minds up.”

The Council’s current proposal is to begin removing the trees in November this year with work continuing until January 2017.