Tree Wardens Raise Concerns About Council Policy

Loss of mature trees not compensated for by planting of saplings

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Local volunteer tree wardens are increasingly concerned about the reduction of the number of mature trees in the area.

Wandsworth Council’s planning committee has given permission for nine mature limes with tree preservation orders on them to be cut down to make room for development at Roehampton University. The tree wardens say that six mature oaks are also under threat in Carslake Road near Putney Heath.

The University of Roehampton were granted their planning permission, by the borough council, for the development of Downshire House on Roehampton Lane - involving the erection of blocks of student accommodation around the listed building. The scheme also means the loss of the open green areas around the frontage of the site. Approval went through in the face of strong opposition from local residents.

A spokesperson for the University said:
"The development of the Downshire House site is part of the University’s plans to increase its ability to provide on-campus housing, improving our attractiveness to potential students. By making improvements to our facilities and offerings, we are safeguarding our future and therefore our contribution to the local economy. The development of the Downshire House site will be sensitive to both the character of the house and its local surroundings. Whilst we are having to remove some trees to accommodate the new student buildings, we will be planting 19 new trees elsewhere on the site. In addition, we will be restoring the protected sunken garden within the grounds and returning The Watchers, a listed sculpture, which was removed in 2006 following vandalism. Pedestrian access through the site to and from the Alton Estate will also be improved."


A Council spokesman for the Roehampton University planning application:“This is an important regeneration scheme for the area, which will allow the expansion of university accommodation and result in better housing for students, access improvements and the restoration of a historic garden.

“Unfortunately there are trees that must be removed to allow this work to take place – but the university will be planting 19 good quality replacement trees of appropriate size and species to compensate.”

Tree wardens fear this is the tip of the iceberg and that throughout the borough the council is allowing mature trees to be cut down in the name of development ignoring the many proven economic and health benefits that trees bring.

The wardens reject the argument made by developers that mature trees can simply be replaced by planting new ones. “This is not replacing like with like. There’s an American research study that has calculated a mature tree has a financial value at least 17 times greater than that of a young tree in terms of its ability to clean the air, reduce run off from intense rain etc... It also takes time for trees to mature and many don’t make it not least because they may come under attack from a host of tree diseases” says tree warden Mary-Claire Mason (pictured right).

For more detail on the campaign you can contact Andrew Wills, co-ordinator of the Wandsworth Tree Warden Scheme  

October 3, 2013