4,500 lime trees for the chop?

Ealing's green landscape could change dramatically

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Ealing Council proposes to remove every one of the 4,500 Lime Trees currently growing in streets in the Borough, reports Conservative Environment Spokesman, Cllr Nigel Sumner. "At a stroke the centre of Ealing � 'The Queen of the Suburbs' - will loose 40% of the trees that are such a distinctive feature of the Town Centre. The majority of these mature forest trees have invested over seventy years in providing visual amenity, biodiversity, habitat for wildlife, pollution control and oxygen to the population of the Borough. Some of the Limes are very much older." he says.


�Trees are a valuable part of the environment and our heritage. The law recognises their 'amenity value' in other words, the contribution which they make to the attractiveness or quality of a place or landscape. Central to amenity value is visible benefit. Trees contribute to the identity of a place and can continue to do so over many generations.�

The law places a duty on Local Planning Authorities to protect trees, not only when development takes place but wherever it is considered expedient in the interests of amenity. Cllr Sumner is astounded that a �private� decision would have appeared to have been made for the wholesale slaughter of these trees � no report has been submitted to the Cabinet and no Scrutiny undertaken. Cllr Sumner went on to say:


�The Arboricultural Department are gearing up to act on that decision. A senior Officer of theCouncil has told me that it is a done deal. So what price consultation or democracy?�

Peter White, Head of Head of Parks and Countryside Service, reports,

"The removal and replacement of the borough's lime trees is a proposal that is being discussed and no final decision has been made.   Whilst Cabinet has given agreement in principle to achieving a saving of £120,000 per annum through reducing tree maintenance costs, before any work goes ahead Cabinet would also have to approve any expenditure involved in removing and replacing the trees.


If the proposal does proceed, the Council will consult residents.   This will primarily be through Area Committees � although we will also contact community and resident groups and carry out appropriate local consultations. Where particular trees are within a Conservation Area, the respective panels will also be notified.


The reasoning behind this proposal is as follows:


In general, the many benefits of trees within the town environment are well known and documented and Ealing Council is committed to planting and managing trees in a sustainable manner for the present and future generations.   What are less well documented are some of the problems associated with certain species of tree in today's modern built environment.


The limes we have today are a direct legacy of Victorian and Edwardian planting.   At this time, limes were the only species of choice as they were tolerant of the smog pollution of that era.   Nowadays there is a far greater choice of species that have broader benefits.


Of the 25,000 street trees Ealing has, some 4,500 are lime trees.   This is about 18% of our tree stock that costs the Parks and Countryside Service about 45% of its annual budget to maintain which is clearly an imbalance.   The reason for this is that lime trees are very vigorous and primarily, need to be pruned hard and regularly to: -

•  Reduce the damage they cause to the structure of the pavements and roads
•  Slow down their pace of growth and to contain their size
•  Reduce the potential risk of damage to adjoining private properties


As a consequence of the hard pruning of the limes, the vigorous growth of suckers (twigs) from the base and trunk of the limes obstructs the pavements and can obscure motorists' vision.   We have to remove these annually at a minimum cost of £55,000, but this does not really resolve the problem as they grow back very quickly and those cut early in the year need to be done again by the autumn at additional cost.


Lime trees are very attractive to aphids, which feast on their sweet sap and excrete a sticky substance called �Honey Dew�, which showers down on to everything below and nearby, creating a sticky mess.   On top of this grows a black mould that quickly makes footpaths slippery and dangerous.


Unfortunately our increasingly litigious society means that insurance claims have risen significantly, and court judgements are increasingly going against tree owners.   In Ealing, lime trees are the main culprits of these claims.


We have to weigh up what is the most sustainable way of managing these trees.   Is it to keep pouring Council taxpayers' money into this programme or to act on a longer-term solution and look to a new generation of street trees to replace them?


Our commitment under this proposal is to replace every lime removed with two other trees, which will provide a better long-term solution to high pruning costs whilst providing attractive trees and environmental benefits for current and future generations of residents and ensuring that trees continue to grace the streets of Ealing in the future.


Please be reassured that the Council's aim is to have more and better trees in the future, not fewer."



February 18th, 2005