Son’s anger as tree at Southend Crematorium where parents’ ashes were scattered to be felled

A son who buried his parents’ ashes beneath a tree is furious at plans to chop it down.

Two mature magnolia trees will be felled at Southend Crematorium, in Sutton Road.

Trevor Bell and his brother had been paying for the upkeep of one of the trees where his father Robert and mother Jessie, who died in 1991 and 2010 respectively, are laid to rest.

The brothers fear the trees were damaged after a concrete memorial was laid too close to their bases in 2017.

Mr Bell, 75, from Westcliff said: “Magnolias were in bloom when my parents married so it was special to them. When my father died I used to sit beneath the tree with my mother.

“When she died we buried her ashes there too. I’d regularly send pictures of flowers I’d laid at the tree but I can’t bear to send them now the trees are completely dead.

“The council never notified us of this work. I went one day and they’d fenced it off. They dug up the grass and laid paving and all the round the base it was rock solid where cement dust had hardened. You couldn’t get any water to the roots.

“I warned them they would kill the trees but they took no notice. When I complained I just got a blunt email saying the work may have affected the trees.

“Now they will be digging the trees up and disturbing the soil where my parents ashes are. This has so upset my family. They were beautiful trees, big, beautiful and healthy and full of flowers. It’s unbelievable.”

Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for environment, culture, tourism and planning, said the council had contacted the family about possible replacements.

She said: “Two magnolia trees are growing at either end of the memorial and sadly both are showing signs of decline. Although we are unable to ascertain that the installation of the memorial is the cause of the issue, we acknowledge that it is possible, as with many plants, changes to the environment can impact growth.

“Unfortunately, due to the decline of the magnolias, the best option available is to remove them and plant two new trees. I am sorry for any upset the proposal to replace the magnolias has caused.”

Trevor Longstaff from the Once-upon-a-tree Facebook page said: “The way the council approached this is upsetting people. People that live in the community have known these trees for decades and it has really upset them..

“I don’t think there is anyone at the council with any knowledge or expertise further than just planting trees.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter

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