Tree Felling On Putney Towpath Raises Concerns

Need for work that if ignored would be negligent say Council


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A local resident is raising concerns over the large scale tree felling that is continuing on the towpath between Barnes and Putney.

They told us, "Over the past few years there has been increasing destruction of the trees along it. Over 50 trees were destroyed in 2016 at the behest of Fulham Football Club and the Sailing Club, followed up in 2017 by the PLA doing further damage and removing more trees. Consequently many of the trees left standing are now completely exposed to the prevailing south westerly winds, or are undermined by the aggressive re-concreting carried out by the PLA along the shore."

The residents concern is two fold, firstly environmental, "Trees are an essential tool in our battle against climate change - they absorb carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas - and they provide shade in the summer which provides cooling. In a city like London trees are absolutely necessary. In addition trees provide extensive habitats for birds, mammals and invertebrates. The UK, as much of the rest of the world, is suffering from major biodiversity loss, due to loss of habitats. Losing more habitats along our local river environment is not necessary, indeed it is environmental vandalism."

And social; "In addition to the functional benefits of trees, there is huge amenity value which is enjoyed by all the residents and visitors along the Thames towpath. Your intended tree management plans along this length of the towpath, will significantly reduce the pleasure derived from walking and cycling along the towpath. Once the trees are cut down, the natural feel of the area will disappear. You will also be leaving the remaining few and far between trees vulnerable to strong winds, they will suffer weather-damage and no doubt in a few years even those few will be cut down."

The works are being carried out by Richmond Council which is responsible for the towpath including the area in Putney up to Putney Bridge. A spokesperson for the Council has responded to the resident's concerns, defending the works as necessary for public safety saying, "The works that are currently taking place are necessary to ensure reasonable safety of what is one of the busiest footpaths in the Borough and is therefore essential in upholding the Council’s statutory obligations. Extensive work has gone into compiling the recommendations, this includes the input of four Arboricultural professionals and the use of decay detection technology, including PICUS Tomograph and Resistograph drilling. It is important to note that many of the trees are functioning as plants, giving them a healthy appearance however structurally trees are compromised and require remedial works.

"Where possible coppicing is taking place to encourage natural regeneration and considering the species is often poplar, this will be rapid in recovery.

"I must elaborate upon the term 'ease of management'; this work ensures that the future management is safe for operatives as pollard management at height presents a safety challenge for our contractors, coppicing at a lower level removes an unacceptable level of risk and ensures that we can continue to manage trees such as T0006.

"Where third party ownership is an issue, we will be serving notice to ensure that remedial works are carried out.

"It is important to note that these works have not been taken lightly; our surveys identified a need for work that if ignored would result in the Council being negligent. We are committed to establishing a structured approach to planting trees on the tow path and will be developing a strategy setting out long term management of the tow path environment in its entirety, in Barnes there will be a particular focus on introducing rare clones on Black Poplar, this will be to sustain the existing population and accord with the ambitions of the Black Poplar Species Action Plan (Included within the wider Biodiversity Action Plan".

A spokesperson for The TowPath Group told, "We all hate tree works and there are always very sensitive issues, but I am confident that the works are necessary for the long-term health of the trees and safety of the public. As a group we have been pushing like mad for replanting and the Arboriculture Manager serving Richmond and Wandsworth Councils has promised this for next year. I find it hard to believe that they would do unnecessary work."

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December 31, 2019

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