Felling spree: 800 trees at risk in Welwyn Hatfield as safety fears mount

PUBLISHED: 09:24 30 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:27 30 January 2018

A car after it was crushed by a falling poplar tree in Howicks Green last year. Picture: Danny Loo

A car after it was crushed by a falling poplar tree in Howicks Green last year. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

More than 800 trees are at risk of being felled throughout Welwyn Hatfield after borough council officers concluded many are unsafe.

The Cabinet will consider a report next Tuesday (February 6) recommending the replacement of 356 mature Lombardy poplar trees following a string of accidents.

But a council spokeswoman confirmed that following further investigation the programme could be extended by an additional 450 in parks and open spaces.

Planted during post-war development, the trees are approaching the end of their natural lifespan and unlike other species are especially prone to breakage.

The recommendation follows a series of accidents where the trees have fallen – the most of which resulted in three cars being crushed in Howicks Green last October.

Trees currently at risk include 251 that are owned and managed by the council, 105 owned by Herts Highways and managed by WHC and at least 51 in parks and open spaces such as Stanborough Park.

It is estimated that felling and grinding out the stumps of all mature Lombardy poplars in the borough will cost around £200,000, according to a council document.

Purchasing, planting, maintaining and watering replacement trees for three years will cost around £63,000.

Councillor Helen Bromley, executive member for environment, said: “In response to an incident in 2009 where a mature Lombardy Poplar fell across Bessemer Road, we began combining external and internal checks during inspections.

“However, we have found that even the most specialised checks are not highlighting internal issues which can cause the tree to fail.

“We share residents’ passion for trees, and hugely value their contribution to the borough’s green and pleasant environment, but it is essential we act now to keep residents safe and give the tree landscape a chance to re-establish ahead of the Welwyn Garden City centenary and Hatfield 2030+ renewal projects.”

Felling is expected to begin in April with replanting due to start in November this year, coinciding with the winter planting season.

The trees are set to be replaced by species more suited to the borough’s environment that will preserve Welwyn Hatfield’s distinctive tree landscape for the future.

Officers are preparing a detailed 12-month schedule of work, most likely starting from the east of the towns and progressing westward.

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