Council hits back at tree felling protests after action group set up

Council bosses have defended their policy for cutting down trees in the borough following complaints by concerned residents.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 9:22 am
Tree protestors Rachael Milne and Jules Napier.
Tree protestors Rachael Milne and Jules Napier.

Rachael Milne, from Lemon Street, South Shields, set up South Tyneside Tree Action Group (STTAG) on Facebook after seeing a number of trees cut down in the borough as a result of council work.

Mum-of-five Rachael, 38, said that she has seen trees being cut down in areas undergoing council footpath improvements such as Gordon Road and Horsley Hill Square.

Tree protestors Rachael Milne and Jules Napier.

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She feels that healthy street trees are being felled unnecessarily so that the council can tarmac paths and decided to set up the online group to monitor and take action on tree felling and in the borough.

Council bosses say felling trees is always a “last resort.”

Rachael said: “I want to keep the trees on our streets. It is so important to preserve them. I have seen the council cutting down a lot of trees and putting tarmac paths down.

“On Gordon Road in South Shields dozens of trees were felled last year. I feel like its being done by stealth and it’s not right.”

Resident Graham Shewen with a cut down tree in Central Avenue, South Shields.

South Tyneside Council saying trees are only cut down as a last resort and that for every tree they remove, they plant a like-for-like one nearby.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are committed to improving and maintaining our footpaths to a safe standard. Through the Flags to Flexible programme we replace broken and unsafe flagstones with a flexible more robust surface.

“In some areas is it necessary to carry out a full footpath replacement due to ongoing damage from tree roots.

“Regrettably, in some cases, it is not always possible to retain the trees due to their size, the extent of their roots and their condition.

Central Avenue trees being cut down. Resident Graham Shewan.

“While the loss of any tree is sad, in such circumstances, the works are necessary to ensure the safety of pedestrians and to reduce the risk of injury.”

She added: “We consider our environmental responsibility with the utmost importance and are responsible for more than one million trees borough-wide.

“The council was also one of the first local authorities locally to produce a comprehensive tree and woodland policy with tree protection and sustainability at its forefront.

“We only remove trees as a last resort after very careful consideration.

“In line with the policy, for every tree removed, we plant a like-for-like tree nearby but in a more appropriate location.

“Planned highways improvement works are outlined annually through our community area forum meetings and before work gets underway in any particular area, we write to the residents affected.”

The latest appeal to save the borough’s trees follows a complaint from a South Shields resident over trees being felled in Central Avenue.

Graham Shewan, who lives on the street, complained to the council last week after contractors working on behalf of the authority, felled a tree without consultation with residents.

But South Tyneside Council said a recent assessment found problems with ‘a small number of trees in Central Avenue’ and they only remove trees as a ‘last resort after very careful consideration’.

They said new trees will be planted on the street later this year.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the importance trees play in the make-up of our local communities and carry out regular inspections as part of our routine maintenance of the borough’s tree stock.

“A recent assessment by our qualified and experienced arboriculturists found a number of issues with a small number of trees in Central Avenue, some of which are in very poor condition or diseased, while others are structurally unsafe or risk causing damage in the vicinity.”