Outrage as 200-year-old trees felled in Southend park

A pair of beech trees believed to be around 200 years old have been felled in Priory Park, Southend.

Visitors to the park were shocked to find the majestic trees had been chopped after the city council claimed they were diseased.

Residents have since disputed this and believe they should have been protected from the axe.

Marion Pearce, historian and author of Milton, Chalkwell and the Crowstone, said: “I have been disturbed to hear of the destruction of two mature beech trees in Priory Park.

“The beech trees are nearly 200 years old. They were majestic and cannot be replaced. They should be there for future generations. The trees appeared healthy, and not diseased. Even the tree stubs that are left show no signs of disease. There was no reason for them to be demolished.

“I have searched the council website, where notice is supposed to be given concerning trees. There is nothing there.”

Ms Pearce added: “It is a disgrace that such trees were destroyed. They should have been passed to future generations.”

Richard Longstaff, who runs the Once-Upon-a-Tree Southend Facebook page and is a newly-elected Green Party councillor for Leigh Ward, was also furious.

He said: “There really should be an independent panel made up of charitable organisations and every tree earmarked for removal should be put towards the panel.

“They said the disease was in the root system but there are no visible signs of diseased roots. Those trees were immaculately healthy when you look at the cross section.”

Mr Longstaff added: “Those trees had to be at the least 150 years old. Priory Park is an ancient park. It’s an absolute travesty. People are utterly shocked.”

A council spokesman said: “The twin pair of copper beech trees located in Priory Park were removed in May on health and safety grounds.

This decision was not taken lightly and we had been monitoring the trees since 2012 when it was first noted that there was some dead bark at the base of the trunk. This developed into fungal fruiting bodies at the base of the tree.

When we come across a beech tree affected by this fungus we have no option but to remove the tree or trees on health and safety grounds. This is especially the case in places such as Priory Park where many visitors pass beneath the branches of these trees every day.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter