Century-old tree could have been saved say Southend campaigners

A tree estimated to be more than 100 years old has been felled by Southend City Council as a devastated campaign group claims “it could have been saved”.

The tree, outside St Bernard’s High School in Milton Road, Westcliff, was destroyed after claims that it was diseased.

However, Once-Upon-a-Tree Southend community group insists the tree could have been saved, adding: “We wouldn’t say it was significant rot. There were signs of the beginnings of decay in the deadwood, which is at the centre of the tree.

“Sapwood around the outer edge is the living part of the tree and looks in good health. We recommended to Southend Council some years ago to better manage a tree’s decline. What would have been useful on this tree was a ‘resistograph’, we have seen this done before when a tree is earmarked for removal and then saved.”

The group has repeatedly criticised the council for not doing more to protect trees in Southend showing initial signs of rot.

Richard Longstaff, Green Party councillor for Leigh, is aiming to set up a council working party to monitor tree removals to avoid the unnecessary felling of trees.

Resident Matt King said: “Very sadly it seems that this tree was decaying, so from a health and safety perspective it is good for it to come down. I do hope, however, that it will be replaced with new trees. Urban trees are so important to help improve air quality, the look and feel of an area, provide shade and to improve biodiversity in our city.”

Meg Davidson, Tory deputy leader of Southend Council, said: “Ideally, we do not want to fell any of our street trees across the city, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Over the last nine years the council has had to remove 2,369 trees, but has planted 4,084, a net gain of 1,715.

“In this case, after thorough assessments including tomography and visual inspections, we determined that unfortunately the London Plane tree in question has substantial decay and damage within its core.

“This decay, caused by Ganoderma sp., a type of fungus, weakens the tree significantly and poses a risk of it falling, and given its proximity to a school, public road, and footpath we have had to act.

“Despite attempts to deal with the impacts of the decay through historic pollarding, our findings indicate an active fungus, and it is just not possible to contain the progress of the decay any longer. Every effort has been made to prolong the life of the tree.

“Now, regrettably, due to safety concerns we had to make the tough decision to remove it but will always aim to replace it with a new one.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter