Dangerous St Albans tree is felled

THE SAFETY of residents was allegedly put at risk recently in St Albans when two councils dithered over which authority should fell a dangerous tree, a councillor has claimed.

Residents in Sherwood Avenue investigating an unusual noise from trees in a wood at the bottom of their gardens on Sunday afternoon discovered a 40ft-high mature sycamore split in half.

Seeing that it had suddenly been divided from its canopy to the base of its trunk Mike Coleman, of Sherwood Avenue, rang St Albans district council’s (SADC) emergency number.

When asked whether the sycamore was near a path, Mike told the operator there was a footpath beside the tree, and he was told to contact Herts county council (HCC) instead.

Two county council staff arrived, confirmed the tree was dangerous and needed felling. However shortly afterwards a highways supervisor countermanded this decision, which meant it was too late to engage a tree surgeon.

Mike said he would not allow his daughter to sleep at the back of their house until the tree had been felled.

At 7.30pm residents called their county and district councillor Geoff Churchard who said that SADC owned Bentsley Spinney, and criticised both councils for initially shirking their responsibility.

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Fearing the tree would topple, he spent over an hour on the phone trying to sort out who was responsible for ordering tree surgeons to remove it.

Cllr Churchard said: “Even the next morning Herts Highways were claiming that it was the responsibility of ‘the rights of way department’ at County Hall.”

Then later on Monday, following more phone calls, the trees and woodlands department of SADC sent out an officer who ordered the tree to be felled 24 hours after it was first reported.

Cllr Churchard said he would take the issue up further with both councils, adding: “Decisions like this must not be delayed in future by arguments over who is responsible for a tree. Residents’ safety must come first.”