Council wields the axe on wonky trees in conservation area

The mark of death: one of the Mulgrave Road trees marked to be axed

Residents of an historic, tree-lined South Croydon street reacted with horror this morning when they discovered that the council is intending to hack down almost all of Mulgrave Road’s plum trees.

According to the council, the mature trees – some nearly 100 years old – represent a health and safety hazard because, well, they are just a bit wonky.

“The council claims it doesn’t have the money to pay for the grass to be cut in our parks,” one angry South Croydon resident said today, “yet they can go out and commit this kind of eco-vandalism.”

Council workmen were expected to do their worst to the Mulgrave Road trees today – the same day that the International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, published its latest report which confirms that mankind’s destruction of the natural environment is causing irreparable damage to the planet. Some of the changes are now inevitable and “irreversible”, according to the climate scientists.

In 2019, Croydon’s Labour-run council issued a statement declaring a climate emergency, and then did next to nothing.

A chart from the IPCC today shows how man’s intervention is burning the planet

The council continue to spend £10million per year to burn the borough’s rubbish at the polluting Beddington Lane incinerator. Recent figures show that 65 per cent of the borough’s waste is fed into the incinerator’s furnaces.

And while announcing schemes to get the public to cough up in order to “sponsor” the planting of saplings, the council is wielding the axe to much-loved, mature street trees (as environmental campaigner George Monbiot wrote yesterday, “There’s no substitute for an ancient tree”).

Condemned: one of the healthy, but a bit wonky, trees on Mulgrave Road

Sources at the cash-strapped council say that they have no budget for at least the next two years to replace any damaged or felled trees, which makes the apparently rushed decision to carry out the fellings now all the less explicable.

Mulgrave Road and its old plum trees lies off Park Lane and runs up to the Brighton mainline railway. It is in a conservation area.

“Locals are in uproar,” according to a resident. “Only two of the trees have rotten branches. The rest are healthy and all are full of fruit.”

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15 Responses to Council wields the axe on wonky trees in conservation area

  1. Eve Tullett says:

    They won’t be happy until they have paved over every green space and removed all traces of nature in the borough, it’s disgraceful.

  2. Wambo says:

    Overzealous tree felling has, unfortunately, been experienced in other parts of the borough too and, on our street, without any warning signs.

  3. Is the arboriculturalist who condemned these fruit trees to death the same rent-a-pillock who tried to wipe out the ash trees at Theobald Road in Waddon on behalf of Brick by Brick?

    Will Councillors Mary Croos, Chris Clark and Caragh Skipper stand up to the mad ‘elf and safety’ brigade or allow the chainsaw massacre to proceed unchallenged?

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Let me guess – a certain few executive’s heard there were a few plum deliverers in the borough that actually delivered plums to residents. Clearly they did not want the competition as those plums delivered for free – whereas the other plums on 6 figure salaries struggle to well deliver at all.
    Strangely the Clyde road cherry tree’s that are also wonky diseased and roots cause some damage are safe – Perhaps a case of fruity discrimination?

    • In other parts of South Croydon, perfectly healthy cherry trees that have been in verges away from the side of the road have been grubbed up and destroyed, the promised replacements never materialising. And this in the years before the council was forced to admit its financial mismanagement.

  5. Lewis White says:

    Trees are very like humans–some are a bit wonky, but we don’t go round culling them.
    The tree illustrated is a Purple leaved Myrobalan Plum, which does give rather tasty round plums (advisable to give them a good wash before eating) .

    Although trees like this don’t live for hundreds of years, maybe these are the original trees planted in the road. 90 years old, maybe even 100. They do not griw very quickly in such places where the soil is covered by tarmac. It is in fact a miracle that they have nevertheless grown and lived for more than average human life span.

    They are planted in brick-edged planting pits in a footway, an indicator that these tree pits were laid out as part of the street when its kerbs were laid, and the footways made up.

    In those days, there were not very many services in the ground. Water pipes, gas pipes, and electricity cables, but not BT cables nor Cable TV, nor street lighting cabling.

    In most cases, except where the services were laid in deep trenches, these services will have been laid in shallow trenches located to avoid the tree pits. Between each tree pit along the road, the service trench diggers will often have strayed towards the kerb, to avoid other services.

    This is why it is now often impossible to find replacement sites for such trees. One has to replace the tree on the same site, as the rest of the kerb-side zone is unplantable, due to shallow services.
    Services can be installed at various depths and locations in the footway. Trees can only be planted along the kerb side.

    In my own street in Coulsdon, you can trace the route of the cable TV pipes, as the tarmac had been cut, the ducts laid, cables run, and the trench then reinstated. Sadly, it swings towards the kerb and goes right across the only possible sites for new trees, other than the existing tree pits.

    When trees die, the roots need to be ground out, and the pit re-excavated, cleaned out, and re-topsoiled. Then a new tree can be planted.

    If the trees are dying, which can be seen in this species by the presence of bracket fungi growing up the trunk, they should be felled and the pits immediately re-soiled and new trees of other species planted.

    Removal of any tree needs to be considered very carefully, taking into consideration the condition, and a range of other factors.

    Street trees are under attack in any case, not only from disease and drought, gas leaks and road salt, but from damage by vehicles, skip lorries, the elimination of old tree pits by tarmacking over, and from the continuous crossover frontages where a number of neighbouring house owners have paved-over their front gardens to make parking places.

    The poor old trees are living, vulnerable creatures. They are being bashed about by cars and vandals, and weed on by dogs, and their pits are used as dumps for water washed out from builders’ mortar mixing buckets, and cleaners’ dirty water.

    I have not yet seen these trees nor do I know why the council is taking them out, but I have to say, it does seem unbelievable that a Borough that purports to be “green” should be culling healthy trees, and that they are not immediately replacing them.

    Croydon got a large amount of funding from the current Mayor’s tree planting fund.
    I wonder what Sadiq will think when he finds out about this Municipal Tree Culling in Croydon?

    What consultation if any was carried out? If not, why not? Who is behind this ?
    If the Council want to trash any green credentials they have, this felling is the way to go.

    This felling seems unjustified, and even if it were, there should be a one for one replacement on the same locations at the very least. Ideally, 2 new trees for every one removed.

    Have Croydon councillors and officers not heard of Sheffield and the removal of trees there ?
    If not, they should have.

    It might save them a lot of bad feeling and anger from the citizens and VOTERS of Croydon, if they Google “Sheffield tree felling protests” and look up hundreds of results, including Wikipedia.

    And then say sorry, and come up with a scheme to save the trees and replace any that need to come out, and add more to fill unplanted sections of the street–if the services allow.

    Here is a bit of detail on Sheffield………….. thanks to Wikipedia……………….

    Sheffield tree felling protests
    Date 2014 – present Location Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England
    Caused by Mass felling of healthy street trees across Sheffield since 2012 as part of the ‘Streets Ahead’ Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract signed by Sheffield City Council (SCC), Amey plc and the Department for Transport
    Goals Stopping unnecessary felling of healthy street trees in Sheffield
    Methods Demonstrations
    Status Ongoing

    Tree felling has been paused since 2018 due to a new approach developed by Sheffield City Council for the maintanance of street trees. Widespread protests across the city have reduced as a result

    Final peace deal plans between Sheffield City Council and tree campaigners due for Spring 2021

    The Sheffield tree felling protests are a series of ongoing protests and unrest happening since 2014 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. The protests began as a response to the mass felling of healthy street trees across Sheffield since 2012 as part of the controversial ‘Streets Ahead’ Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract signed by Sheffield City Council (SCC), Amey plc and the Department for Transport.

    The protests have resulted in many arrests across the city along with threats of legal action against Sheffield City Council and Amey plc in order to help prevent unnecessary felling of street trees in Sheffield. Due to a pause of tree felling in 2018 as part of a new approach developed by Sheffield City Council to maintain street trees, the number of protests have reduced since 2018. Final plans for a peace deal between Sheffield City Council and the tree campaigners are due for Spring 2021.

  6. John Harvey says:

    What is the position of LBC’s insurers on this?

    • Cautious, we’d suggest.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      See that is the strange thing – There are many reasons to remove tree’s and replace. We are all aware of how Insurers treat tree’s within certain distances etc. However the ad hoc and different ways of dealing with the issues appears to be haphazard and chaotic. There are perhaps good individual rationales behind each work but there does not appear to be any scrutiny or questioning from Councillors nor much Council involvement of residents or consultation.
      And that is really the Councils issue in treating its residents and taxpayers as mushrooms and milch cows or even worse – as an inconvenience best left in substandard housing and ignored for years.

      What was that about Council Culture?

  7. mikebweb says:

    One has to have great sympathy for the Mulgrave Road residents who will finish up with a treeless road, bare and forgotten!

    The council seem to have no plan and randomly cut down healthy trees while leaving others, even some that even are diseased or dead.

    The council started on trees in Fitzjames Avenue which they said were dangerous three years ago. They still have not finished the job. So how “dangerous” are they, really?

    We have a dead tree in Ranmore Avenue and reporting it for removal has no effect at all. Emails are ignored. Are they waiting for it to fall first?

    Just took at the central reservation in Wellesley Road where there are 10 dead trees which were reported more than a year ago. They were all planted by the council, at considerable cost, no doubt, about three years ago. Left without any water or care, they just died!

    • Nick Davies says:

      “They were all planted by the council, at considerable cost, no doubt, about three years ago. Left without any water or care, they just died!”

      That’s pretty standard public sector stuff. Expensive consultants will produce a design with lovely landscaping and planting and wotnot: the glossy powerpoint will wow the audience at the tendering presentation, and a load of expensive contractors will be engaged to build the project. But nobody will have thought to factor in the cost of upkeep of the lovely landscaping and planting, let alone run it past the parks/grounds/estates* people to see if it’s going to work in a practical sense. And so your landscaping and planting looks lovely on day one when some underemployed peer comes to cut the ribbon. Three years down the line the plants are now weeds and it’s full of old supermarket trolleys and dogshit and needles simple because nobody thought it might need a bit of upkeep.

      *Assuming you haven’t fired all your grounds staff in the hope that enough well-meaning locals will volunteer to keep things up for free.

  8. Lewis White says:

    A project like this demands a consultative letter , signed by a designated project officer, followed up by an on-site consultation or walkabout, with the residents , councillors and officers who know what is proposed and why.

    In terms of greening (or de-greening) the borough, this is a major decision, which demands proper thought, consideration of options–and funding to ensure that the environment is not impoverished as result.

    If there are genuine reasons, such as heart rot, or fungal infestation, fine, subject to full like-for-like replacement.

    Trees of this age will be growing very slowly, so are unlikely to be extracting too much moisture from under the foundations of nearby buildings.

    Trees get the blame as they are a soft target.

    If people are paving their front gardens, little or no rainwater water will be reaching the subsoil. If the subsoil under the house foundations is shrinkable clay, then the clay shrinks as it dries.
    It is not the trees’ fault.

    I am wondering what the justification is, and whether anyone is “owning” the decision.

    It is not good enough to conveniently forget the council’s greening obligations.

    The Labour Party is committed to greening, so it is particularly wrong if a Labour council is going against Labour policy.

    Street Trees are fundamental in cooling the overheating urban environment . They take dust out of the air. They add moisture vapour to a parched atmosphere. They are key to making “Liveable cities”. These trees are among the smallest -growing street trees planted, and in no way are blocking light

    This could well be a test case of Croydon’s green credentials and commitment. Is it all just empty words– Greenwash / PR guff ? Climate Emergency ? Yes, and who is contributing to it in this part of Croydon ?

    I really hope that someone at senior level — who cares about this– this takes hold of the stuation and stops the felling immediately, and gets new trees planted in Autumn 2021. Just a few months away .

  9. Lewis White says:

    Looking at Google Stret view, I am very surprised that I have seen no mention of possible impact of trunks to the heads of blind people.

    It would be interesting to know if the council has a disability advisor who could advise .

    My final view is that any trees removed , for what ever reason, must be replaced immediately , and if possible, blank sections of the street planted up, if underground services permit.

  10. Rosie Mott says:

    I have seen these crosses pop up extensively across Shrublands. Most of these are not wonky, nor are they near paths. There must be 20 of them! Shrublands will be a sadder place without their trees, is there a way to get the council to reconsider?

    • Get your neighbours to write to the council cabinet member responsible (making sure that they all cc you into their mails, so that you have a record of the numbers):
      Tweet at him, and tag in other interested groups, residents’ associations and environmental organisations – Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, CPRE… His Twitter tag is @ali_croydon
      And get your councillors to do some work on your behalf, too.

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