Labour and Harlow Alliance Party ask: What happened to all the trees in Harlow?
Communities / Sat 15th Jul 2023 at 06:29am
MEMBERS of two political parties asked a number of questions to the leader of Harlow Council regarding the felling of trees across the town.
Question from Karen James of Harlow Alliance Party
At Full Council on the 15 July 2021, a question was asked about the maintenance of council owned trees. The response was that a programme of work had been commenced and that a town wide inspection of trees was being carried out. It is clear from looking around the town that very little work is being carried out, many homes are now blighted by the close proximity of trees.
Can you advise me of what progress has been made to complete the inspection of trees, has a long-term programme of work been identified and how many trees had work carried out on them in the municipal year 2022 to 2023?
Question from Harlow Labour leader Chris Vince
A number of trees have been cut down by Essex highways as part of the sustainable transport corridor. Although I understand trees will be replaced, I am concerned replacing mature trees with new saplings is not like for like. Can you tell me what warning Essex Highways gave Harlow council about these trees being cut down, what justification they gave to them being cut down so far in advanced of any planned highways work and what evidence they provided that the scheme will be carbon neutral?
The questions and answers can be seen below.
As part of the New Town design, planners in the 1950's and 1960's believed it was a god idea to plant thousands of trees across the town and of course this was in principle a good idea. The problem was that many of these were planted to close to houses and buildings and for the last couple of decades Harlow Council has not done enough to ensure these trees do not cause damage to property or put homes in permanent shade. Things have become even worse in very recent years and despite the undertaking made two years ago little progress if any has been made to prioritise work to resolve these issues such that when speaking to residents on the doorstep this has become the biggest single issue discussed other than pot holes. The response given to the first question left a lot to be desired and one has to remember that we now have a council who seek to plant hundreds more tress in the "regenerated" town centre, even though they are not prepared to commit more resources to the ones already in the town.
Having had 1st hand experience of planting trees on my own land to have the council remove them because they thought the land belonged to them without asking questions, I asked the question about improving the biodiversity of planting them... No response was given. It seems counsellors are happy to plant purchased trees or from a fund of some sort when there is a photo opportunity and where it can be counted for some co2 reduction policy. However look at nature. I walk Katherines way daily, the native trees have self seeded and foot high sprouts of new life arrive, not costing a penny but in future will provide shelter for animals, a habitat for insects, a pleasant green corridor and shelter from the sun... Then hts come and now the verges and reduce the ground to an inch high grass of no value, trees that had taken naturally and growing strong, destroyed.... But don't worry a bright spark will get a few £k grant for planting bushes in a field , surround them in plastic wrapper and then leave most to die... Just look at the mound in sumners next to the playpark bearing scars of plastic wrapper. But forgive nature, the council has a sustainable plan which will only cost x much but look how much co2 points we can offset to remain carbon neutral, modern life sucks!
The Council has cut down perfectly sound ancient trees including highly environmentally valuable oak trees far older than the younger properties built 50 yards away, not because they were any kind threat but because residents don't want to pay for insurance. Trees in the built residential environment are extremely important they reduce ambient temperatures during heat waves by as much as 15 degrees C, prevent flooding and vastly increase biodiversity. It's clear that the Councillors who happily and ignorantly voted through the raised road that will devastate the ecology of the Stort River Valley called the Eastern Crossing cutting down many mature and ancient trees, haven't a clue about the importance of tackling Climate change and it's vital role in improving the quality of life for residents. Why has there not been a rolling planting scheme to maintain and increase the stock of trees going on since 1947?
Spot on nosradamus. I would like to add, the ones councils are planting need to be watered and maintained...which your not doing...for them to survive.. Take and replace is what your doing,,you carnt grow an old tree in a new place.... LEAVE OUR TREES A LONE, ITS THE OLD ONES WE NEED NOW,, WHY DONT YOU GET THAT.
It is interesting to read and listen to people who protest that their walks are affected by trees unable to grow due to grass being mowed. My wife and I have lived in our current house for over 40 years and at the time that we moved in a mature Oak Tree was growing approximately 30 - 40 feet from the house rear wall. At that time the tree was of no concern, being well managed by the council, on whose property it stood. However a sign of things to come was perhaps shown when, in 1987 a full branch of some 2-3 feet across and 20+feet long, was torn down by the gales, and which totally demolished the adjoining fence and part of our garden landscape. The council were however quick to respond, cutting back the branch, renewing the fence and clearing away the large branch. Problems started later when for some reason best known to themselves the council requested a preservation order placed on the tree, which in practical terms now means that any action to prune it and get rid of the dead wood, to which it appears prone, requires Planning Permission, which when requested, on the last occasion, managed to take over 8 years to action. What was before, a beautiful but managed tree has now become for us a source of anxiety bordering on fear. After some dialogue over the last 3 years the council has now responded and I believe has requested planning permission to “manage” the tree again, so I hope that this time the delay will not be quite as long. The argument that the trees were there before the houses, applies to every house in this country and especially Harlow, being a new town. In closing just let me say one last thing to those Harlow residents who will no doubt answer this and “defend the tree’s right to exist” and that it is our only defence to climate change. This particular tree has already cost you tens of thousands in damages on your rates bill for structural repairs to local houses, and with rising winds and drier summers, this is likely to occur again in the future.
Talking to Cllr Nicky Purse today and to give her credit she is knowledgeable and working to bring a sensible plan that's ecologically and Climate change sound. My own reading of the situation is that the problem seems to be that over time since the town was built there was no coherent, well informed action plan, monitoring or strategy for maintenance and regeneration about trees and the environment generally. The Government doesn't understand and is pushing Councils in many wrong directions whilst there's so many different departments with different and conflicting agendas and priorities that progress is very much hindered
Edward, this is nothing to do with either ecology or climate change. The simple fact is that in many years gone by the Council did have plans in place to attend to trees. In more recent years however the Council was willing to take the risk of doing little to trees and relied on reactive action rather than taking proactive action. It was said two years ago that a town wide inspection would take place of all the councils trees, which would take two to three years to complete. In the meantime very little has been done to trees which are affecting peoples homes, I believe only a very small group of staff/contractors are doing any work. The present administration are following in the footsteps of the previous administration, pushing the issue further down the road, which can only lead to even more problems for many residents, as described by a worried OAP.
To a worried OAP: I can accept your concern however the devastation of old growth trees has the potential in fact lead to hundreds of thousands of pounds in flood damages given that old trees and green belt land is the sole defence proven to absorb rainwater. The thing people forget is the less trees there are the less drainage potential the ground has. There are parts of Harlow that flood already, we need more trees in built up areas, not less.
YES BUT IN THE RIGHT PLACE, and also I'm not asking that it be cut down only that it is properly managed. You will excuse me perhaps when living in the shade of what threatens, in every storm to possibly demolish us along with our house, that I don't have your broad vision and preaching ability - as the old saying goes " When you are up to your backside in mud fighting alligators, it's a little difficult to remember that our final aim is to drain the swamp.
To all the naysayers, I actually met and spoke with Harlow Council's tree inspector in April last year in Bishopsfield. Alongside me were my HTS team leader and one of the Kick Start trainees. Funnily enough, it was just after we cleared a mass of brambles blocking a footpath and overgrowing a householder's fence. All three of us HTS gardeners received a written compliment from the householder. So, HTS gardeners are valued by some council tax payers and council tree inspectors do exist. Two urban myths demolished in one comment.
I've no dought they exist,, David foreman, but you would be hard pushed to speak to them.... I phoned to speak to a P.T.O officer, oh there out ,, said do you mean we carnt talk to them... The problems are that councils do not maintain any thing any more.... I had an Ash tree took down from our garden, by the council,, the cost was a 1,000 pounds, that was few years back... some neighbour complained about it..... so God knows what cost would be now... If you don't maintain then yes things will over grow...... doesn't mean you have to rip it down .... just maintain..
The problem is David, the demand for services far exceeds the resources being allocated to deal with them. Times change of course but in the days of the Development Corporation there were some 70 gardeners employed to look after the towns green spaces. Just like the issue of leaseholders being asked for tens of thousands of pounds for roof repairs, putting off work just leads to even bigger and more expensive problems for the future.