Stanborough tree felling decision was above board

PUBLISHED: 17:37 26 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:17 26 October 2009

The felled poplar trees

The felled poplar trees

SIR - While hesitating to prolong the agony for your readers a moment longer than necessary, your recent article Call for tree felling probe (WHT February 4), demands a response. At no time has any of the three reports, or any other issue relating to

SIR - While hesitating to prolong the agony for your readers a moment longer than necessary, your recent article "Call for tree felling probe" (WHT February 4), demands a response.

At no time has any of the three reports, or any other issue relating to the decision by cabinet to fell trees at Stanborough Park, been misrepresented by either officers or councillors. Neither has there been any attempt to keep things under wraps.

Perhaps it would be helpful to remind ourselves of the sequence of events leading up to the cabinet decision:

In 2006 Finesse Leisure commissioned a report from ACF that concluded a large number of trees were dangerous and should be felled.

In 2007 Finesse Leisure commissioned a second report from a different consultant, Gristwood & Toms that concluded pollarding was an option for some trees.

In 2008 Finesse Leisure and council officers, balancing the findings of both reports concluded that a large number of trees should be felled.

In the summer of 2008, following the strength of public opinion at the meeting at Stanborough, the council commissioned a third survey from FLAC which reviewed the site tree by tree and concluded that:

l Fifteen per cent of the trees in the south car park needed to be removed immediately;

l The trees in the north car park had a longer life expectancy and the risk to the public was 'moderate'.

The balance of all three reports was reported to Cabinet in September and a decision to fell trees in the south car park only was taken. Members considered that pollarding would not have resolved the problem in the long term and removing only the dangerous trees would have resulted in other weak trees becoming exposed and more likely to cause damage.

When the trees were felled, disease was present in the base of all the trunks. This was in addition to decay that was evident at the top of the trees which had resulted from previous pollarding.

A decision was also taken to consult further around diseased trees in the north car park and on a landscaping scheme to enhance the area for the future. To this end the council has set up a task and finish group.

In summary three independent consultants agreed that the risk posed by the trees in the south car park to people and cars in their current condition was too great not to act.

We, together with our consultants, fully investigated and considered a number of proposals to manage the risk of the trees in the south car park - including pollarding and felling - and concluded that felling was the only realistic option.

The council has acted in an open, honest and fully accountable manner throughout this very public debate and believes the right decision has been taken for the right reasons - public safety and the long term amenity of the area.

Councillor Clare Berry, executive member for environment and community, Welwyn Hatfield Council.

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