Crushing impact of fallen trees at Harpenden flats complex

FALLEN trees in Harpenden have left a trail of destruction in their path.

Several large trees at Stephen’s Court on Station Road fell over on Sunday morning, crushing up to five residents’ cars and damaging the roof of the three-storey block of flats,

Firefighters from Harpenden, Stevenage, Hitchin and Hatfield arrived on the scene at around 4.30pm and used an aerial ladder platform to remove debris from the roof. It took around three hours to finish the job before Hertfordshire Highways disposed of the fallen trees.

Stephen’s Court resident and mobile auto electrician Nick Burton, who has been running his company, Sounds Secure, for 15 years, was at home when the tree fell.

He said: “I was inside with my girlfriend when we heard what sounded like fireworks going off. It was actually just one massive branch that caused the first wave of damage, squashing three vans – including mine – as it fell.”

He added: “It’s irritating because I reported the low-hanging branch to the tree management company two weeks ago as it was too big and left sap all over my van.

“I thought that St Albans district council owned the tree but because no-one has confirmed that yet, there’s no third party to claim off.”

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Harpenden East district councillor Mike Wakely, who is also a structural engineer, saw the damage and said that the new block of flats may have been to blame for the accident.

He explained: “The development was granted against the wishes of local residents and has greatly affected the amount of light received by the trees. The resulting shade would have certainly been a contributing factor towards the accident.”

He added: “It’s frustrating because both Harpenden Town Council and St Albans District Council refused planning permission for the new flats because of the loss of amenity to Batford Springs nature reserve where the trees grow.”

A district council spokesperson could not confirm whether the council owned the tree or not, but trees and woodlands officer for the council Andrew Branch confirmed that it was an ongoing investigation.

He said: “We received notification from the management company on August 24 reporting that tree branches were overhanging St Stephen’s Court car park from the council’s land and that excessive fruit fall was likely to damage cars. We informed the management company that we had logged the call and intended to visit the site and carry out an inspection.”

He added: “We were not informed that the trees represented imminent danger. Had we been told that trees posed imminent danger we would have inspected the site within 24 hours.”

The site was inspected by the district council on Tuesday.