£21,000 spent chopping down 39 trees

Tree expert Matthew Poiter with the trees at West Park
Tree expert Matthew Poiter with the trees at West Park

CASH-strapped council chiefs are to spend a staggering £21,000 axing just 39 trees.

The bumper figure only includes the cost of chopping down the trees, which are all in West Park.

More will have spent on replacing those axed - and that will cost between £78 and £800 for each tree.

Resident Matthew Potier, who works a tree and landscape consultant, branded the scheme ‘bonkers’.

An official document seen by the Reporter shows Town Hall staff have drawn up a list of “problematic” trees facing the chop.

Work to axe nine lime trees from Dodd Avenue and Fairclough Road and plant eight replacements will be completed soon with more to follow.

The document also recommends removing and replacing all 165 lime trees from streets throughout the West Park area - at a cost of £243,045 - but this proposal will not go ahead.

None of the trees listed are diseased, but are said to have become a nuisance for many local residents.

However, others are angry, branding the scheme a colossal waste of money at a time of scarce financial resources.

Michael Potier, a resident of Dodd Avenue and a professional tree and landscape consultant, said most of the trees set to go are mature and add value to the neighbourhood.

He said: “It’s just bonkers – I have been asking and asking but have had no reasonable explanation as to why they are doing this.

“I just believe that a number of issues have simply not been considered. They are saying things like, some of the trees have roots in peoples’ gardens. Well if that’s the concern then we’ll have to chop down almost every tree in St Helens.”

Residents in in Dodd Avenue were told in a letter that the work followed numerous complaints and attempts to resolve “ongoing problems”, although the exact nature of those problems were not explained.

The document – drawn up by the council’s civic pride and environmental service department - goes on to warn of the hazards posed by trees, including; trip hazards, interfering with TV reception and producing “leaf litter”.

It also warns that trees may “create fear due to their size”, spark hayfever and create unwanted shade.

Mr Potier, 36, fears axing so many trees could pose a risk of structural damage to some homes in the area and believes property prices could fall as a result.

“I have spoken to the council leader, Marie Rimmer, who is also my ward councillor, but haven’t had much joy,” he said. “She just seemed to be of the opinion that the work was necessary but I see no justification for this.”

A council spokesman said the trees selected for removal had been chosen in consultation with residents.

He added: “The council is planning to fell up to a maximum of 39 trees only – at a potential maximum cost of £21,000. So far only nine trees have been cut down.

“These are trees which, due to their size and location, are causing real problems for residents – blocking pavements and creating safety hazards.

“In January alone we planted 35 replacement trees in West Park. These are more suitable ‘street’ trees, including Mountain Ash and Birch.”

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