Lotz to say on Stanborough poplars

SIR - Cllr Clare Berry s letter of February 25, in which she justifies the felling of the trees in the south park, is once again fraught with misleading and inaccurate statements. This completely undermines her statement that At no time has any of the three report

SIR - Cllr Clare Berry's letter of February 25, in which she justifies the felling of the trees in the south park, is once again fraught with misleading and inaccurate statements.

This completely undermines her statement that 'At no time has any of the three reports, or any other issue relating to the decision by the cabinet to fell trees at Stanborough Park, been misrepresented by either officers or councillors.'

In particular, Cllr Berry states the decision to fell the trees in the south car park was based on the risk to the public.

Cllr Berry states that the risk to the public in the north car park was listed as 'moderate' in the FLAC report, and that therefore there is no reason to remove them immediately. In fact the risk to the public in the south car park was listed as 'moderate' and the risk in the north car park was listed as 'slight' and later 'low to moderate'. [See FLAC report, pp 10 - 11]

However, since Cllr Berry rightly shows in her letter that a moderate risk is not a cause for immediate panic removal of trees, this should prove that the removal of the trees in the south car park was indeed an unnecessary and excessive response.

The photographs of the felled trees did not indicate the state of severe decay that Cllr Berry belatedly claims, and in any case trees, like people and most organisms can continue to live productively with some degree of disease and faults.

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Henry Girling, an arboriculturist who attended the lakes meeting, gave the opinion that the vigorous growth at the crown indicated a sufficient level of health for the trees to continue 10 to 20 years.

Cllr Berry was also on record as having repeatedly said, in letters to the press for example, that the trees should come down long before the cabinet actually made the decision.

The meeting at the lakes, which Cllr Berry did not bother to attend, was one that presented the public with the fact that all the trees were to be felled and there was supposed to be an opportunity to consider the replanting scheme.

ACF, the company associated with Cleartrack which was tending for the contract, was allowed to speak. The ACF representative cited the risk to the public as 'high'. The public was not provided with the Gristwood and Toms report which stated that the trees were a valuable amenity.

This report also assumed that the public would be consulted about the options. Gristwood and Toms said: "The options for managing these trees are wide-ranging, and the final decision will lie with the client, but public consultation will most likely influence the outcome heavily."

The Gristwood and Toms report also makes it clear that the trees are an asset that should be retained as long as possible:

"Due to the trees' significance within the landscape their retention should be considered as priority if reasonably practicable. This could be achieved by reducing the trees down to a safe height (approx 5m) and managing them at this height regularly ie every three to five years. Trees in poor condition, with decay or excessively suppressed trees, should be removed to ground level."

The council's actions were, therefore, misleading, as the public was given information from only one report. The second report, when it was eventually revealed, was a far superior document.

Moreover, the effects of removing diseased trees has been exaggerated in my opinion, since the FLAC report gives a balanced view and indicates that 'companion shelter' between rows is not likely to be a factor in wind damage: "The good spacing between (as against within) the rows means that they are not likely to be providing companion shelter to each other". Wind damage could in any case be controlled by pollarding.

A pollarding regime would have allowed plenty of time for reflection and consultation and pollarded trees could have been cheaply managed, until a fuller decision was made, as Gristwood and Toms pointed out.

Instead, the public was wrongly told by the chairman of the meeting that a decision had been made: "After discussing the report with the council, [Finesse Leisure] then sought a second opinion from another consultant, Gristwood and Toms, which detailed a very similar conclusion."..."the decision was taken to fell the trees." [transcript of Lakes meeting in August]

Yet we were later told that no decision had been made, and a decision was finally made by cabinet in September.

All three reports offered pollarding as an option to eliminate any immediate danger. The wholesale felling of the trees was therefore unnecessary.

Cllr Louise Lotz

Liberal Democrat Councillor and member of the task and finish group to consider the trees in the north car park and the replanting scheme in the south car park at Stanborough Lakes.

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