Leaf them alone!

Merton Council is fighting to save 12 ancient trees, planted in the borough during Queen Victoria’s reign, from being felled.

The 12 sweet chestnuts, planted in around 1850 in front of Atkinson Morley Hospital, Wimbledon, have been threatened with the chop after St George’s NHS Trust deemed the trees were unsafe.

However, Merton deployed its own tree expert whose inspection included using a micro-drill to ascertain the structural integrity of the trees and the findings show that while the trees are not in the best of health, they can be retained, with proper management, in a safe condition.

Despite the trees being protected with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), the Trust does have the right to fell the trees by giving five days’ notice to the council, which it has done, if the trees are considered to be dead, dying or dangerous.

However, the Trust has given an undertaking not to remove the trees while the matter is considered and Merton has successfully negotiated with the Trust for it to submit a formal application for consent to fell the trees. The matter will now be considered further.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Andrew Judge, said: “We’re aware the trees are not in the best of health, due to their age, but our experts tell us they are not dangerous and they make a significant contribution to the character and appearance of this part of the Merton (Copse Hill) Conservation Area.

“They also benefit the bio-diversity of the area; offering habitat, food and shelter to small mammals, insects and birds. Obviously the trees cannot be retained forever, but the advice we have received indicates these trees will survive in a safe condition long enough to allow us to consider a phased replacement thereby avoiding the complete removal of these trees in one go.”