Have your say about Tooting Common’s Chestnut Avenue trees

Chestnut Avenue have your sayDo you visit Tooting Common? What would you think about plans to replace the trees on Chestnut Avenue?  The council has just launched a consultation on the future of the  Chestnut Avenue trees, and we’re urging everyone to have their say and let their friends know – the deadline is September 4th.

The consultation webpage and document has lots more information, including different options to vote on: http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200024/consultations/2175/chestnut_avenue_consultation

We have asked for more publicity about this consultation and the Council have agreed that they will now leaflet the streets around the Common and have drop in sessions so that you can ask the experts questions.

The Council are proposing making changes to the Chestnut Avenue trees on Tooting Common. This is the Avenue that runs from the cafe down past the playground, pond and tennis courts and up to Tooting Bec Road. This fine mature avenue of Chestnut trees is over 100 years old and some trees have been found to be diseased.

The consultation documents have useful computer generated images which help to show the difference between the options, but we have some concerns about the consultation.

Do have a look at the consultation and see what you think too. If you’d like more information before deciding, do let us know and we will get this and add to this post for others to see too. There will be drop in times on the Common so you can come and speak with Rosena and I about the consultation, and times you can speak with the tree experts.

We have four other concerns about the consultation documents and have asked the council for answers to the questions below – their response is below.

1. First the tree that fell down during the storms earlier this year had root rot as I understand – was there an investigation into whether others have this too? What was the result?
2. How long would the remaining good trees have before they would die? another 20-30 years? If we did replace as they went rather than all at once, would we have about half and half?
3. It is really helpful to have pictures and I appreciate some more thought has gone into how to present the consultation in a much more interesting and informative way that many other plain documents. However, I think that the pictures are very misleading as the first option to replace as they die is how as a very bare and desolate picture, but would actually be an avenue still, but just with uneven heights of trees. The picture seems to lead the reader away from this as an option if they value tree cover. However, the ‘fell and replace’ option is presented as extremely attractive, and the interim measure of the chopped down trees (and loss of extensive tree cover for decades as the new trees grow) is not illustrated. I am sure that there will be lots of comments about this about to come your way, so would you be able to re-look at these diagrams and maybe add a more attractive one to the ‘replace as and when’ option?
4. Also I know we are going to get lots of complaints about not sending out letters about this to the streets around the Common. There is a lot of emotional attachment to these lovely trees: the setting of many a lovely walk/cycle/conker collection on the Common. If the option to fell and replace is chosen it will have a huge impact on users of the Common and if they haven’t known about the consultation because they’ve been away then they will feel very let down. We will be doing all we can as councillors to publicise this, but could you reconsider the leafletting – not of the whole consultation document but just a short letter to point people to the website and boards on the Common?
If you have any comments or questions do respond to this blog or email us (rallin-khan@wandsowrth.gov.uk and fanderson@wandsworth.gov.uk) and please spread the word about the consultation – thanks!!

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200024/consultations/2175/chestnut_avenue_consultation

RESPONSE FROM THE COUNCIL (11th July)

Thank you for your feedback and I can confirm that we will flyer drop homes around the Common and will be hosting drop-in sessions so residents can speak to the parks services on a one-to-one basis while looking up at the trees themselves. The team will also be handing out surveys to passers by on other occasions and posters are going up in the next few days.

Regarding the tree related issues you raise, firstly the tree that fell down I can confirm that decay of the root system is extremely difficult to detect,  because of the very matter of it being underground. We undertook decay detection tests on randomly selected tree stems at close to ground level (for which equipment exists) but the results did not enable us to make any assumptions about the soundness (or otherwise) of the root system deeper down. We therefore did not progress to do the same with all the trees. We will have to wait to observe physical symptoms through regular inspection,  which is the normal method.  Secondly, regarding the life cycle of the remaining good trees, the issue does not really relate to how quickly the trees will die. Some trees will decline and die due to stresses of Bleeding Canker, Leaf miner and Guignardia, but that is likely to be slow attrition. The problem lies in their structural integrity which is declining quite rapidly, leading to potential structural issues, which would be occasional collapse, or occasional branch failure unless we take preventative action. Obviously we will take preventative action which will be substantial crown reduction or pollarding as necessary. Trees won’t necessarily die but they will need disfiguring attention, and at regular intervals thereafter. It is this issue that will be easiest to address/demonstrate at the on-site  walk/talk.

Thank you for raising your concern with the images and as you say they are intended to add interest and be illustrative rather than being precise / true-to life. We think residents will recognise that they are only very basic two dimensional illustrations and we’ve made every attempt to ensure that residents view these alongside the three independent surveys/reports and the detailed commentary explaining the issues and likely outcomes. I can explain that under Scenario A, many trees will have to be repeatedly pollarded year after year as they continue to age/weaken so they will never recover their full size or leaf canopy – that goes some way to explaining why the trees in that image are less ‘leafy’ and attractive.  In scenario C –  I think we’ve been fair in presenting the two images to show that initially the canopy cover will be limited in the first years. The commentary also states that trees take 20-30 years to reach maturity, although the trees will become a significant landscape feature long before that.

If we were to add a new image at this point it would invalidate the responses received so far and we can’t guarantee these residents would re-take the survey.

We do take your point very seriously and I have examined the survey responses this morning; so far 78.5% of respondents say they are ‘clear about all the issues’,  20% say they are ‘clear about most of issues’ and only 1.9 per cent say they are ‘unclear’. While this isn’t a question specifically about the images it does suggest that overall people are satisfied with the commentary and can understand the independent analysis.

I hope it’s clear that our parks team have tried very hard to present this consultation in an engaging and fair way with very good quality information to support the different options.

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