Leighton Buzzard councillor presses for answers about why Silver Birch trees were damaged and when replacements will arrive

'Everyone makes bad mistakes at times, but what matters most is to repair the damage as fast as possible and learn from the mistakes'

Friday, 28th May 2021, 1:04 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 6:33 pm

A Central Beds and Leighton-Linslade Town Councillor is calling for answers about the damaged Silver Birch trees in Leighton Buzzard High Street.

Cllr Victoria Harvey says that the public has a right to know why they were harmed and when they will be replaced now that it has been over one month since the incident.

The much-loved trees were damaged during the Easter weekend by a town council contractor, which had been employed to install lights round the trees as part of a project to enhance the high street.

The silver birch trees, pictured when the LBO first ran the story in April. Photo: Bedfordshire Wildlife.

The decision to remove the trees was made by CBC who deemed that too much damage had been done to them and that the level of danger was significant enough to require their removal.

Cllr Harvey, told the LBO: "Part of the LLTC’s plans for architectural lighting was to light up the trees and as part of this work, the tree roots were cut through before the Easter weekend and left exposed to the frost and sun over that weekend. As the trees had been killed, then CBC ordered for safety the removal of the rest of the trees.

"There is still no news re the replacement of the trees in the High Street [over] a month after they were cut down, despite both residents and councillors stating that they wish for replacement trees as soon as possible. There has been no report to town councillors of what happened and now that meetings are suspended until June 21 there will be no public meeting in which this can be discussed."

Cllr Harvey informed the LBO that the plane tree in Church Square was also damaged because of work during the architectural lighting project.

She said: "It is at risk, but it is hoped that remedial work will save it."

Cllr Harvey has asked for the details of the permissions given by CBC to LLTC for work around the trees, as the trees are in a conservation area, and also for details of the minutes of where it was agreed that these trees could be lit up as part of the architectural [plans], but said that "there has been no answer".

The newspaper was also informed that Bedfordshire Wildlife had submitted an FOI request to Leighton-Linslade Town Council and Central Bedfordshire Council.

Cllr Harvey claimed: “I cannot understand the delay and the slowness in reporting to town councillors and above all the delays in replacing the trees.

"Many Leighton-Linslade Town Councillors, both Conservative and Lib Dem, and residents, have said how important the trees are.

"As well as that, it is really important that our high street is as attractive as possible. The high street non-essential shops and outdoor service for cafes and pubs reopened one month ago on April 12, and indoor opening took place on May 17.

"It is really important to welcome people back to the High Street and make the high street a nice place to dwell in and enjoy; everyone agrees that trees make high streets more attractive."

Cllr Harvey concluded: "Everyone makes bad mistakes at times, but what matters most is to repair the damage as fast as possible and learn from the mistakes.

"The delay on replacing the trees which are much loved by residents when the high street has already been reopened for a month is disgraceful. I do not understand the delay on this from the senior Conservative Cllrs at LLTC, some of whom are also senior in CBC, and so joint working with CBC should be really easy.”

A Leighton-Linslade Town Council spokeswoman, said: "The Town Council is working collaboratively with Central Bedfordshire Council toward resolving this issue. Information updates will be given as soon as we are able."

The spokeswoman confirmed that a report about the trees would be "written in due course".

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman, said: “We understand this has been a concern for local residents and we can confirm that the next stage of the removal process is being completed this week, where we will be removing what remains of the former trees, the metal guards, and grinding the stumps. We will be installing new sophisticated tree planting systems in their place, that will give the two new silver birch trees the best chance to thrive. The planting of the new trees are due to be completed during the summer.

“We will be managing the plane tree differently going forward, to give it the best chance of survival. We will be laying mulch around its base during the next two weeks, and then we will be monitoring its vitality closely.”

There was also controversy in early April when the trees were removed, because they were cut down during nesting season.

The RSPB recommends not cutting down hedges and trees between March and August, as this is the main breeding season for nesting birds, and many residents were worried that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 has been broken.

However, at the time, a town council spokeswoman, said: "Public safety supersedes the Act being quoted here."