Published: 10th June, 2011
by PETER GRUNER
TWO magnificent 50-foot London plane trees – a feature of a Barnsbury street since Victorian times – were unceremoniously axed yesterday (Thursday).
The end came early in the morning in Richmond Avenue when a team of contractors employed by Islington Council attached ropes to the two 120-year-old trees and began sawing away at the top branches. By midday all that was left were the stumps.
Residents who had fought a bitter battle with the council over the trees for almost four years were heartbroken.
Private insurers had claimed the trees were the cause of subsidence to a large property in the road. It was a claim apparently confirmed by two independent consultants employed by the council.
But tree campaigner Meg Howarth – responsible for the campaign to save trees outside the former offices of the Guardian newspaper in Farringdon – believes the council took a precautionary approach. She said the axing of the two London planes marked a “bleak day” for Islington’s trees.
“My understanding is that any damage being done by these trees was very slight and could be remedied by underpinning,” she said. “But of course this is a more expensive option.”
Kevin O’Leary, the council’s corporate director of environment, has told residents he was sorry the trees needed to be axed. He added: “I can assure you the risks involved in retaining the trees are not insignificant and we face many potential similar situations.”
Only 38 trees had been removed due to subsidence over the last few years. They had been replaced by more than that number, he said.
“We will look at longer-term planting options for Richmond Avenue and will involve residents in this,” he added.