Trees at Dinton Fields
Removal of Trees on Dinton Fields
Regrettably we have had to make the decision, in collaboration with our tenants, Kingstonian Youth, to remove 19 trees on Dinton Fields near St Agatha’s Junior School and nursery for health and safety reasons. Following an assessment by our tree officers and a separate report by an independent arboricultural consultant, it was found that all of the trees are in serious decline with structural problems making them unsafe. The Lombardy poplars closest to the nursery and school pose the greatest risk, along with an ash tree close to the road. However, the age, condition and nature of the poplars in the fields mean that they also present a risk. It is not possible to predict when trees or branches might fall, but, given the location on the busy playing fields, retaining these trees any longer would only increase the risk to the public.
We will be planting new trees in the area and we’re keen to work with local residents to agree the number and types of trees from a range of native species that would enhance the biodiversity for the future. Lombardy poplars would not be replanted as they are not suitable for urban environments.
As part of our policy to improve the environment, we are committed to increasing the number of trees across the whole borough. We planted 527 street trees over the last year and over 1,000 whips in our parks and open spaces.
For more information please watch our video from Ben Morgan, Tree Officer.
Frequently asked questions
How many trees are planned to be cut down at Dinton Fields?
16 Lombardy poplars, 1 ash, 1 sycamore and 1 cherry have been identified to be felled.
Why are the trees being cut down?
The council cannot take any risk with the safety of the public, especially with trees in high risk zones that are on well used playing fields, adjacent to school playgrounds and housing developments such as this.
Two of the trees have a type of fungi called Ganoderma that weakens the internal structure of the tree. The other trees are in poor condition showing various signs of decay.
How do you determine if a tree is unhealthy?
All trees on Dinton Fields were subject to a detailed inspection on 6 November 2018 by two of the council’s tree officers. This entailed a ground level, visual tree assessment (VTA) looking at the exterior of the trees for signs of structural failure and an assessment of the overall condition of the tree. Further investigation in the form of a ‘knock test’ was undertaken and this highlighted that all the trees, with the exception of one, showed signs of decay and structural weaknesses, although not all of them present external signs.
Could they not be pruned instead of removing them completely?
Following the level of public concern raised by the suggested removal of the trees, a further independent survey was commissioned. This recommended that eight Lombardy poplar trees and one ash needed to be felled immediately as they posed an extreme risk. One small dead cherry was not included within the report but will be removed and one small self-seeded sycamore is to be removed due to its proximity to an adjacent building. A further eight pose a less immediate risk but are showing similar signs of decay and are not suitable for long term retention due to structural defects. They could be pollarded (cut down to about half the size) but would need to be removed not long afterwards anyway. The risk of keeping them, even in a pollarded state, is still too high to make it worth preserving them on a short term basis for their aesthetic value only.
Will the removal of the trees disturb nesting birds and other wildlife?
The council must comply with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means the council’s tree contractors undertake a site specific risk assessment prior to any work taking place, at which point all trees are assessed for 'environmental considerations' including protected species and habitats. Each tree is subject to a visual tree inspection on the day of the work and inspected for nesting birds. The council’s tree contractors comply with Natural England general licences, which provide specific exemptions where work must be carried out for the purpose of preserving public health or public safety.
Who is responsible for maintaining these trees?
The responsibility for maintaining these trees in ‘good and substantial repair’ is with the leaseholder, Kingstonian Youth Dinton Field Ltd, under a full repairing and insuring lease completed in 2014. Unfortunately, as the leaseholder is not in a position to undertake the tree works now required and due to the potentially dangerous condition of these over-mature trees, the council has stepped in to ensure urgent safety works are completed without delay. Discussions will be undertaken with the leaseholder to address how maintenance will be undertaken in the future.
How many replacement trees do you intend to plant?
Once the old trees have been removed we can assess what space there is for new trees. Lombardy poplars will not be planted again as they are not suitable for urban environments - instead a mixture of native species would be considered such as cherry, hawthorn and oak.
We’re keen to work with local residents to agree the number and types of trees from a range of native species that would enhance the biodiversity for the future.
How much does it cost to remove these trees?
The felling of the trees is at a cost of around £20,000. As the works were deemed essential on safety grounds, the council is funding them on behalf of Kingstonian Youth who are the leaseholders of the site.