Council deny plans for 'tree massacre'

Claim lime tree replacement will increase tree numbers

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Ealing Council are denying claims that plans to remove 4,500 lime trees will destroy the 'leafy' character of local streets. They say that the programme would actually increase the number of trees in the borough.

The move is designed to save the Council the £120,000 a year extra they spend on maintaining this type of tree.

Lime trees were originally extensively planted in London during the Victorian and Edwardian periods because they were better able to cope with smoggy conditions. Of Ealing 20,000 trees 4,500 are limes but although they comprise only 18% of the stock they take up 45% of the maintenance budget. Lime trees grow very fast and vigorously and therefore need regular and hard pruning.

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. The Council 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.

Conservative Environment Spokesman, Cllr Nigel Sumner said, "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."

Cllr Sumner says he 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. He claimed a senior council officer has told him that the decision is a 'done deal' even though the Council are saying they will put it out to consultation.

Peter White, Head of Head of Parks and Countryside Service, denies that a decision has been made. The Council's cabinet has agreed in principle to the proposal but they still need to approve the expenditure necessary to remove and replace the trees.


He said, "Unfortunately our increasingly litigious society means that insurance claims have risen significantly, and court judgments 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? "

A commitment would be made to replace every lime tree removed with two other trees. Mr White said, "Please be reassured that the Council's aim is to have more and better trees in the future, not fewer."



February 18th, 2005