Purley Beeches is NOT being cleared for housing
02/05/2014 09:30:00......Posted by Tim Pollard
At the Sanderstead Residents' Association AGM last night, a number of residents raised concerns over the felling of many mature Beech trees before Easter.
The concerns fall broadly into three areas:
- A concern that the trees did not actually need felling
- A worry that it was done in order to clear the land for later redevelopment for housing
- Annoyance that the trunks and canopy from the trees felled has not been removed.
Dealing with the second of these first, there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that this work is all about clearing the way for a housing development. Purley Beeches is protected in our planning policies and there is no prospect at all of that changing. Certainly the ward councillors would be implacably opposed to any future attempt to build on this land and I can see no prospect of any future council administration seeking to do this.
I won't cover the third of these concerns in this post, as this is covered in earlier blog posts, except to say that we willl maintain the pressure on officers to clear the debris until it is broadly at a level which park users are happy to live with. It is important that some trunks are allowed to slowly decay in situ, as they would in an unmananged woodland, because of the benefits this brings as a habitat for various species. But at the moment, there is too much and it is spoiling park users' enjoyment, and that's not right.
So this brings me on to the first of the residents' concerns - the theory that the trees didn't actually need felling. I am not an arboriculturist and nor would I claim to be an expert on trees - but the council employs people who are, in the team led by Mr Browning. He has recently written to a resident, copying me in, explaining why the signs of decay are not necessarily visible to the naked eye and I reproduce the majority of that letter below. I hope this reassures residents that the works were necessary, although very regretable.
Thank you for coping me into your letter to Cllr Pollard regarding the above.
If I may, I would like to answer some of the concerns that you have raised in this letter;
Firstly, let me assure you that we are as upset as you are to fell these trees. However, the trees were not felled simply because they were over mature. They were felled because they were found to be hazardous.
With respect to yourself, and other people that have raised concerns, signs of a tree being hazardous may not be apparent to the untrained eye ( please see attached notes on Ketzschmaria deusta as an example of a fungal pathogen that can render trees extremely dangerous).
As a land owner we have a clear duty of care and simply cannot ignore trees that we find to be hazardous, especially in an areas such as Purley Beeches, which are both heavily used by the public and surrounded by residential properties. It should be noted that, in recent years, The Royal Parks, The National Trust and Kew have all been involved in court cases as a result of fatalities caused by fallen trees on their land.
The most recent felling is particularly noticeable because Purley Beeches, from an aesthetic viewpoint, is a pale shadow of its former self. Fifty years ago it was a magnificent woodland of mature Beech trees. Unfortunately, though, it was absolutely devastated in the1987 Hurricane and since then we have had to periodically remove trees that have become hazardous.
The problem has been compounded by the fact that the woodland was of a single age class and so there was not an understorey of young trees there to come through and replace the trees that blew over. To answer your question about planting, we have, in fact, already planted several hundred replacement Beech trees. Unfortunately though, all of these trees have been ravaged by Grey Squirrels and the only long term answer to this problem is to cull all the squirrels from the site which, again, is a very emotive issue for the public.
Ironically, although the park has suffered aesthetically, it now improved ecologically as there is a far greater diversity. Ash, Hazels and other tree species are far more common and there is a greater variety in age structure, dead wood and habitat.
Whilst understanding the criticism that the recent work has caused, I must point out that notices were put up at the entrances to the park some three weeks before the work started, explaining that we would be carrying out the work and inviting people to contact us if they had any concerns about this work. No one came back to us but, if they had, then we would have been happy to meet them on site, before the work started, and explain why the work was necessary.
Finally, can I say that, as well as managing some 33,000 street trees (one of the highest numbers of street trees in London), and trees in Parks, we also manage some 450 Hectares of woodland.We have active management plans in place for most of these woodlands and are proud to have achieved the high standards of woodland management required to receive Forestry Stewardship Council accreditation and to meet the UKWAS (UK Woodland Assurance Standard) standard. We have also set up “ Friends of” groups for a lot of the woodlands and our woodland management is widely cited as being best practice both London and U.K wide.
I hope that I have addressed your concerns on this matter but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any other points that you wish to discuss.
For the sake of completeness, I also paste below the excerpt from ‘Principles of tree hazard assessment and management’ referred to in mr Browning's text:
The significance of the decay fungus Kretzschmaria deusta (formerly Ustulina deusta):
Extract from ‘Principles of tree hazard assessment and management’ by David Lonsdale 1999:
“….U.deusta induces a brittle ceramic-like fracture. This can occur in main stems or root systems, since the fungus is exceptional amongst ascomycetes in being able to grow in the central wood of very large trees.
Fracture often occurs before an advanced white-rot has developed, so that the fracture surface can be quite hard.
The seat of the decay within the tree is usually at the stem base, where in some cases the fungus appears to have entered through a wound. In such cases, it can extend 4m or more up the stem, as well as into the roots. It can also enter via the roots, eventually causing windthrow.
This is a particularly dangerous decay fungus, partly because its fruit bodies are often overlooked, also because of its very common occurrence and wide host range, and finally because of the type of decay that it causes. The brittle fracture associated with this decay often occurs with no warning of incipient failure, and without the compensatory thickening that can occur with fungi which cause selective delignification (e.g. Ganoderma spp.). Except in very advanced cases, this decay cannot be detected with a stress wave timer and may also escape detection by certain kinds of mechanical probe.”
K.Weber, C.Mattheck – Manual of wood decays 2003
F.Schwarze – Fungal strategies of wood decay in trees 2000