Campaign group ‘For Trees’ have today sent out this urgent appeal :
There is an intention to discuss Wirral’s Trees tonight and ‘call in’ the felling while the new Wirral Tree Policy and strategy is established. This policy will afford Tree Protection and allow a healthier environment for Wirral.
Meanwhile here is recent correspondence we have received outlining For Trees attempts to stop the felling of 33 mature,healthy trees in West Kirby. Could this be part of Wirral’ Council’s gross over-reaction to tree maintenance prompted by a particularly tragic case involving a fallen tree?
Dear Mr Justice,
I am sending a copy below of the e-mail sent to interested Councillors and those on the Environment Committee following a ‘meeting’ in Grange Park with Anthony Bestwick and Colin Quinney where Councillors called to STOP the plans to cut and fell the row of lombardy poplars in Grange Park, West Kirby. The Council officers have said that they are refusing any call for a moratorium and will proceed with felling!!! This is outrageous!
Please help to stop the Grange fellings and KEEP WIRRAL’S TREES.
Diane Johnson, For Trees Wirral.
Emergency on Planet Earth
Wirral’s trees are being felled at an unprecedented rate. Some local authorities are now actively protecting trees in their constituencies. Wirral Council officers have repeatedly taken decisions based upon totally disproportionate and unfounded fears that our most precious living asset be disposed of, at cost to the taxpayer and to the Council.
Claim culture must be addressed, in part via public education; this is the legal responsibility of the council. Councils concerned about the possibility of negligence claims need to issue disclaimers in public areas which warn the public that they should, for example, avoid walking in the vicinity of quaysides, close to ancient trees on cliff tops, etc in the event of severe gales. They cannot, and should not, be held responsible for accidents that occur as a result of the interactions between our environment and ourselves.
Litigation actions, pursued as a result of illnesses caused by airborne pollutants, are becoming more frequent; These increases in breathing related deaths are a vital implication of ‘duty of care’ and ‘health and safety issue’ for the council, as trees intercept pollutants which cause seizures, asthma attacks and inhibited lung growth.
‘For Trees’ has audited the loss of and damage to several thousand trees in our Borough. Felling operations are market-driven by the risk economy, by the biomass market (which uses 79% wood fuel instead of waste products), timber harvesting, and by the compulsory roll-out of 5G and its infrastructure. An FOI request revealed a Wirral spend of 220k per annum on tree ‘works’ but this was subsequently found to be 1.5m (Anthony Bestwick quoted 1.2 m 19.6.19); It can cost up £5,000 to fell a mature tree (how much to protect a tree?)
In response to the ‘Amenity Tree Care Ltd’ survey of Grange Park, West Kirby:
The removal of any trees at Grange Park/Cemetery will be detrimental to the local ecology, and the human population. Despite their amenity value, the trees filter the pollutants reaching West Kirby, and provide oxygen, thus reducing the risk of pulmonary diseases and deaths through breathing related illness; of which there were 55,000 recorded in 2017. This FAR outweighs ANY risk or ‘danger’ from keeping trees. Their removal is a certain risk to human health.
No tree surveyor is capable of foretelling which trees may fall in severe storms. Trees which are identified as dead will rot, providing a vital micro-system of food source for foraging birds and bats, fungi and other micro-organisms which only thrive on dead or decaying timber can inhabit as a vital part of our ecology.
A tree will eventually become soft and crumbly, rather like a balsa-wood. This offers NO significant danger.
The entire area is foraging grounds for a number of bat species and any tree hollows at this location, are plausibly bat roosts
THE AMENITY COMMERCIAL SURVEY: response
- The whitebeam; This small tree has been previously coppiced and has since grown multi-stems from it’s base of which some dead limbs of around 10cm diameter. More importantly, this tree is surrounded by a 4m diameter thicket of bramble. This is a unique habitat within this park providing shelter and habitat for sparrows, and foraging birds and small mammals such as hedgehogs.
- This hawthorn has been recommended (April 2019) for the Woodland Trusts’ Ancient tree directory. There is a living limb attached to a very old and ecologically valuable stump (around 1 metre height) of considerable age. Hawthorns can exist through re-generation for many centuries, although sadly they are very rare at this age.
- Ash: This tree should be left in situ as it is in dense wooded area; adding valuable habitat.
- Sycamore: In dense wooded area; adding valuable habitat. This tree should be left in situ.
- Laburnum; This tree has been dead for many years. It lies at a 45 degree angle from the ground with vertical stem from this and has still never fallen after all this time. As it has been left as a dead-wood it illustrates perfectly that, being allowed to rot in situ adds valuable perching and foraging habitat.
- Only last year this magnificent cherry tree stood as a perfect specimen of a full canopy tree. Cherry-wood is one of the most valuable and sought after British hardwoods commercially and this specimen willl command a high price in timber value. It has died very suddenly and would stand, if left in situ, for many decades adding important habitat to the ecology of the area
- This cherry has previously had all of it’s branch canopy ends cut; By whom? and Why?
consequently this has introduced some disease to the tree. Yet it is now in good leaf.
G1: This “group of two trees” (according to survey) with an estimated height of 3 m is, in fact, a small and ecologically valuable ‘coppice’ which includes two young healthy ash, two young healthy oaks and a small sycamore. A limb of the sycamore which has died back can easily remain in situ as it stands no more than 3m and is in advanced stages of decay. The survey refers to a hawthorn to be ‘felled to the ground’ but this is already a short stump
G2: Despite a covering letter to the survey from Anthony Bestwick suggesting that 6 poplars are condemned to fell, where he states;
“The biggest group of trees is the row of Lombardy Poplars along the edge of the roadway in the cemetery that due to significant issues, means that 6 of the 33 trees require felling the remaining Lombardy Poplars require pollarding.”
The survey, in fact, states that all 33 poplars are recommended to fell; The survey says;
“G2 is a row of thirty-three Lombardy poplar growing adjacent to the main access road into the cemetery. The trees have a history of being poorly pruned and have been significantly reduced in height to approximately 4m above ground level. The survey identified twenty-three trees that have major structural defects that consists of significant stem and basal decay. Large diameter deadwood is visible in several trees.
Following the significant reduction in height there appears to have been no further work carried out to the trees.”
“Due to the poor structural condition of the trees and poor pruning and the further likely deterioration in the structural condition of the trees. I recommend that the trees are felled to ground level.”
Mr Bestwick’s letter thus is misleading. The Council is required by the Aarhus Convention, to which the UK is a party, to operate in an open, fair and transparent manner, so the public can see what is involved, yet they have deliberately obscured information.
ALL these 33 trees are, in fact, robust and thriving. ALL show healthy new growth throughout the individual trees from ground level to the full height of these trees which now have recovered from their ‘poor pruning’ and have grown to over 13 metres high.
The statement could correctly read ; ‘following the significant reduction in height’…the trees have successfully healed and grown to their current height of over 13 metres tall. It is not appropriate to pollard this beautiful line of trees.
No tree needs to be ‘felled to ground level’ as is recommended in the survey; This row of trees are one of the few remaining stands of such trees in Wirral; they need to be seen to realise just how spectacular they are. Standing majestically, they can be viewed from parts of Liverpool as well as Wallasey and New Brighton. They, as are all the trees on this survey, within the feeding grounds of the bat population of Grange and, in fact, provide probable bat roosting. Because of the protection status given to bats, the trees should be afforded protection on this basis alone.
The time for full and thorough independent environmental impact assessments and bat surveys (even if they had been done, as should have been good practice) has passed; the trees need to stay.
There is at least one nesting box visible fixed into the poplar beside the scout hut and a nest is also visible (the scouts intend to write letters or e-mails of appeal to stop felling or cutting these trees as they were unaware of the felling programme prior to 18.6.19).
The following statements; ..
” trees that have major structural defects that consists of significant stem and basal decay. Large diameter deadwood is visible in several trees.”
indicates the lack of understanding as to the nature of tree-growth and ageing by the surveyor; The living part of an ageing tree is the outer girth; Most ancient trees are, in general, entirely hollow, as their inner wood naturally decomposes with girth expansion (the famous red-wood of USA which was, for many years, recorded as the tallest known tree had a road running through it). Hollow trees are STRONG (as are hollow wind turbines and hollow bones etc) and will stand for centuries as hollow. As these hollows develop, ideal habitat is provided for eg nesting owls and woodpeckers, and roosting bats.
The reason given for pollarding the trees is; because it has been done previously. Of course, even pollarding them will render them susceptible to disease, spoil their appearance, reduce their capacity to filter pollution and produce oxygen etc.
The felling company will obviously stand to profit from harvesting the timber from these our public trees.
G3.: The ‘group of standing young dead elms’; The only reason to remove these would be to remove the diseased wood; Mancoed’s practice however is to chip and leave diseased elm-wood on site; this was how the elms of Grange Hill were ‘managed’ last year where an astonishing number of living healthy trees of other species were also felled alongside these valuable deadwoods with the tree-fellers excuse; “we needed to get the chipper through”….’collateral damage!’. This, again, is unacceptable
All the living trees in the survey contribute to flood-alleviation. As the Council has, over recent years, dug up Grange park to install drainage systems, I am interested to know how much was spent on this? Upon the site visit, it can be clearly illustrated that areas of the park are still flooding and thus are in need of PLANTING FURTHER TREES particularly in the areas which are currently flooded.
Flood defences have already been installed by way of ‘gambions’ beside the scout hut where the line of trees stops.
There were no such things as tree surveys in the past and trees did just fine, and the possibility of being ‘harmed’ by a tree was never an issue.
There is no legal requirement to survey and fell trees in this manner.
Surveying trees, with a view to harvesting their timbers, opens the door to the question of whether a tree has the right to exist.
What is the purpose of any health and condition survey if it recommends that a tree or any other living creature should be killed? The only surveys that could feasibly be entertained would be those that analyse the human-borne threat to trees at any stage of their lives with a view to protection, via tree guards, tree pits, mulching, wardening. etc. Surveying needs to establish the cavat value of our valuable trees using the Eco itree tool, which Wirral Council are advised to adopt immediately. (linking in with Wrexham Council and learning from their methods of good tree-care practice will be a sensible next step.
The ONLY trees that should be considered to prune or remove are those which grow across roads or footpaths and would physically interfere directly with traffic flow eg the bus ‘tunnel’ of vegetation, or walking on an official pathway (1.5 m).
Trees are unique as living organisms in that, unlike others, they continue to function at very high levels at EVERY stage of life and in WHATEVER CONDITION. They are unique in the enormous contributions they make every second of their lives to human and animal health and to the health of our elements. They curate life both in their immediate environment and far beyond.HSE statistics illustrate a 1: 120,000,000 risk compared to 6 road deaths a day (1,793 road deaths per annum) yet there is still no meaningful policy to curb car use). This entirely dis-proportionate felling response ignores the huge benefits we gain from trees.
Wirral Council needs to terminate its surveying and felling contracts forthwith.
There is one threat to the health of trees – which is human. Humans import tree diseases. Humans attack trees.
And yet our very lives depend on them
Update; Following the ‘meeting in the park’ with Colin Quinney and Anthony Bestwick (19.6.19) they expressed that; no amount of calls for moratoria will be heeded, from Councillors, as there is ‘a duty of care’ and a ‘health and safety’ issue involved and; despite the climate emergency, the fellings would go ahead. Colin Quinney noted that if some of the poplar trees in their condition had been ‘special trees’ he would have agreed to save them as it is it would be too expensive. He also said he wouldn’t proceed with felling ALL those which the survey had suggested but would save some poplars. There was no mention of, or regard shown for the DEFRA bio-diversity duty legal commitments or the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) or European Habitats Directive; laws which are in place to protect our natural environment.
Diane Johnson, BSc Hons Ecology, PGCE, For Trees Wirral
In view of the pending loss of the majestic row of poplars (all 33 poplar trees) at Grange Park, and almost all of the other mature trees within the Park area, as a result of the survey carried out by Amenity Tree ‘Care’. we have searched for an independent, non-commercial, qualified tree surveyor who is willing to give us another opinion, before any work goes ahead.
Fatalities in ‘Daily or Normal Life’
The following table compares the calculated risks that are experienced in ‘daily or normal life’.
|Annual risk of death||Annual risk||Annual risk per million|
|All causes, aged 45-64
(England and Wales, 2003) (1)
|1 in 190||5263|
|All causes, aged 30-44
(England and Wales, 2003) (1)
|1 in 940||1064|
|Accidents in the home, all ages
(England and Wales, 2004) (3)
|1 in 17,000||59|
(Great Britain, 2010) (2)
|1 in 32,000||31|
|Injuries to all employees in different industries
(Great Britain, average 2001/02-2005/06) (4)
1 in 140,000
|Insignificant or Trivial Risk (HSE)||1 in 1,000,000||1|
|Trees on public land||1 in 20,000,000||0.05|
|Lightning (5)||1 in 19,000,000||0.05|
- Office for National Statistics Focus on Health
- Department for Transport Road Casualties Great Britain: 2010
- Office for National Statistics Mortality Statistics – Injury and poisoning
- Health and Safety Commission Statistics of Fatal Injuries 2005/06
- Deaths and injuries caused by lightning in the United Kingdom: analyses of two databases, D M Elsom, Tornado and Storm Research Organisation, 2000
Additional Reference: National Tree Safety Group-Common sense risk management of trees
Diane Johnson, For Trees.