Jun 302016

Peterculter tree fell (4) By Peterculter resident, Diane McKay.

A whole belt of healthy well-established trees is being cut down in Peterculter. This work was planned for August, but is happening today, now.

It has been very difficult to get any answers from the council: they told me this morning that some residents have complained of falling branches.

But surely this doesn’t necessitate the destruction of the whole belt.

I only moved to the area late last year. The main reason we bought the house was because of the beautiful majestic backdrop of mature pines.

Back in March, fifty-two local residents received a letter from Alasdair Wilson at the council, saying they were considering taking the trees down. It offered options either to remove them, remove some of them, or to leave them. I responded, stating that I would prefer it if the trees were left alone, because they enrich the area, support wildlife and also provide a windbreak for the houses.

I received no acknowledgement. I emailed again to check if my response had been received. Again, I received no answer. I tried phoning Mr Wilson, using a number I was given from the main Council office, but no answer. I tried half a dozen more times, then tried the Council again. They gave me the same number again and said they would contact Mr Wilson and tell him I was trying to reach him. Again, nothing.

Then on the 31st of May we got a second letter saying there had been only thirteen responses, with seven in favour of retaining the trees, a slight majority, and that they would be felling them all, with work starting mid- to end August. I emailed back, also contacting the local community council, and three local councillors, asking them to reconsider.

Then on Monday morning out of the blue we awoke to the sound of chainsaws. At this point I had not been given any reason whatsoever for the trees being felled. I then received a short email from Mr Wilson, saying:

“It is assumed that the silent majority have no strong opinion and are happy for us to continue.”

He gave his mobile number, so I was able to contact him at last and express my dismay. He said they had time to do the job just now, so were going ahead.

He said that in the past some properties had been damaged by falling branches. I asked him if the trees could just be monitored and maintained and he told me it was too late because the trees had not been properly maintained previously. He told me the number I had been given twice by Council staff was obsolete and just reaches an empty office.

Peterculter tree fell (5)I contacted the RSPB, who said they recommend felling after mid- to end August, as originally planned, to avoid disturbing nests.

I then heard back from Councillor Marie Boulton, who said that some residents in the retirement houses on the other side of the tree belt felt their houses were dark and damp, and that they felt threatened when returning home at night. More street lighting had been put in, but according to Councillor Boulton they still felt threatened, and felt ‘unsafe’ sitting out in the communal areas.

There are twelve of these houses for elderly people, so even if all six responses in favour of felling came from those houses, then that is still only half of them. The trees are at the bottom of a slope, so the roots probably absorb huge amounts of water. It is therefore possible the houses may become damper with the trees gone. Also, there are other communal areas away from the trees for people to sit outside.

Apart from my own view that the trees should stay, I believe the Council has handled the situation extremely badly, by not supplying information or explaining or justifying what they were doing; in fact, by not answering queries at all until after the felling had begun. It also seems pointless asking residents for their opinion if they then go ahead and do whatever they want.

The council has told me that any trees with nests will be left temporarily, but I believe the noise and destruction of adjoining trees will cause birds to abandon their nests.

There was a local ‘consultation’ with most responses being in favour of keeping the trees, but the council have gone ahead anyway. There are few enough trees in the city as it is. With the construction of the bypass, and all the house building locally, we need to be protecting trees, not destroying even more.

There are plans to replant the area, which is at least some consolation (to future generations anyway).

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  9 Responses to “Council Pushes Ahead With Peterculter Tree Felling”

  1. From Marie Boulton: I have contacted Tree Officers to try and get you the information you asked for, there are approximately 40 pine trees which are tightly close together which are being felled. The largest 2 trees that have been removed so far have been rotten hence why branches have been falling and have damaged residents properties. There were also issues with the properties feeling damp due to the lack of light, the paths becoming slippery and when returning home in the evening the area felt slightly threatening to some of the residents particularly those living alone. Residents complained that the outside area wasn’t pleasant or safe to sit out because it felt dank, dark and the fear of falling branches meant residents were reluctant to use it . The Council did try cutting back branches, improving the lighting in the street and in houses owned by the Council over several years prior to taking the current action and only did so because residents still felt unsafe for the reasons above. The cottages are amenity housing and don’t have separate gardens so the outside communal spaces are important to them and many of the residents are older so the safety aspects become a priority.

    I have confirmed with the tree officers that they have checked the trees for nests which they confirmed they did and that there was only one nest and it was empty and photographic evidence was taken to show this. The tree Officers will re plant suitable trees as quickly as possible. I am sorry I cannot comment on the lack of response because I have only had two people contact me and that was the one to keep the trees and one to have the trees felled and I have responded to them both. The letters which have been sent out and the planning of works was an operational matter carried out by officers with no elected member involvement or instruction so it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

    Council Tree Officer do not take the decision lightly to fell trees and do consider very carefully the competing issues before reaching a final decision and in this case will be replanting as soon as possible.

    I hope this clarifies the situation on this situation.

  2. In response to Councillor Boulton’s comments – we have watched the destruction of these trees from our window, right from the start – and they were healthy, not rotten. This can be seen from my photographs of the log piles. If the trees have been monitored and “maintained” at all in the past – surely any “rotten” ones would have been removed and the healthy ones left in place. I am not sure how old these trees are, but they are a long way from the end of their lives – Scots Pines can live around 300 years and Douglas Firs around 600 years.

    This belt of trees provides habitat for many species of birds. It is hard to believe that only one (empty) nest was found. If this was the case, then the tree officers may not have been looking thoroughly enough – blue tits’ nests, for instance, are small are often in small holes in trees (eg where an old branch has broken off), so would not be visible easily.

    So, only ONE person has contacted Councillor Boulton in favour of felling the trees, and yet the destruction has gone ahead on this basis??? This does NOT clarify the situation!

  3. Suzanne says – it was good of Marie Boulton to get back so quickly – but I really don’t understand a few things about this tree cull, and hope people in the area who are interested / the author of this article can look at the info from the Council below and let us know whether or not the tree cutting fit into these guidelines or not. Any photos to show the health of the trees, how close they were to the buildings, etc. would help. But if a few people ‘felt scared’ in a home with trees near it – in Peterculter – my reaction is shame on them if these trees were destroyed because of small-minded, ill-informed paranoia of a minority – and that’s what it looks like to me as regards the resident related complaint. Council policy:
    Planning and Environment > Planning > Trees and Woodlands > Council Owned Trees

    Council Owned Trees

    Trees are of vital importance to the world for many reasons.

    Amongst other things they screen eyesores, frame views and form landscapes. Trees have significant environmental value, produce a habitat for many species and help provide us with cleaner, filtered air, shade in the summer and warmth in the winter. Advice is freely available on any aspect of maintenance of Council owned city trees, for example:
    Street Trees
    Park Trees
    Open Space Trees
    Trees in Housing Areas
    Trees in Council House Gardens (This does not include former Council Housing sold under ‘Right to Buy’)
    Woodland Management

    This involves work such as pruning, planting or felling of trees or woodlands that are owned by Aberdeen City Council. Also, the Council has a similar level of responsibility when managing the trees it owns to any private land owner or neighbour. In the first instance contact the call centre on 0845 608 0919 for general advice. However, the City Council has guidelines for works relating to the trees it owns.

    Work the Council will or will not do to Council owned trees

    Work the Council will do on Council owned trees:
    Remove dead, dying or dangerous trees
    Remove trees within 2 metres from property (see notes relating to proximity to buildings)
    Remove dangerous limbs
    Remove limbs which are obscuring highway signs, traffic lights or lamp columns
    Inspect and if necessary, repair trip hazard caused by Council owned trees
    Inspect trees causing daylight obstruction to the South or South West of the property. Work may proceed after this inspection, an exception to this is in the case of established woodland predating the house construction
    Thin groups of trees to improve form and condition of remaining trees

    Work the Council will not do on Council owned trees:
    Cut back branches overhanging private property. (The private property owner has the legal right to cut back these branches on a tree which is not subject to a Tree Protection Order)
    ‘Top’ trees or remove branches to increase daylight or decrease height in relation to property (See note regarding South or South West trees above)
    Remove branches or trees affecting views or interfering with TV reception
    Remove branches or trees to prevent falling leaves, honeydew from aphids or other minor debris
    Remove roots from gardens
    Remove roots from drains or repair damage to structures where the tree has not been clearly demonstrated to be the principal cause
    Remove branches or trees to prevent potential root damage to structures
    Remove branches nearly touching buildings, walls, roofs, fences etc.
    Remove branches or trees to prevent access to squirrels or birds
    Remove branches or trees affecting BT lines (see notes relating to BT lines)

  4. Hello Suzanne, thank you for adding the Council’s policy. I believe the trees are within 2 metres of sheds but not actual properties. Most of the branches on that side have been removed already.

    There may be some daylight obstruction but the trees pre-date the houses.
    The trees were in good condition, not rotten. I would not have objected to the removal of rotten branches or trees.

    I do have photos to back up these points, but can’t seem to attach them here, should I send them to you separately?


  5. I am scunnered to hear that even more local habitat is being destroyed as if enough destruction hasn’t already taken place with the building of the AWPR. Even if they do replace the trees, it will take many years before the same diversity of species and an equivalent habitat to the current one is reached. Trees are under more threat than ever from due to Climate Change as well as the global trade in plants bringing a host of new bugs, fungi and bacteria into the UK. The council should be protecting and enhancing our local wildlife habitats not needlessly wiping them out.

    I can’t understand why they have started felling now, RSPB guidelines are very clear about the possibility of birds nesting until mid/the end of August and for felling to take place after such time. I am inclined to agree with George McKay’s comment about a proper inspection not really taking place. I think it would be extremely unusual for only one bird to nest in that size of habitat (not to mention birds that are nesting nearby and using the insects on the trees for a food source for their young).

    The Scots Pine tree is excellent for wildlife and supports a large variety of insects which in turn helps support the surrounding bird population. Furthermore, Scots pine seeds are a favourite food for red squirrels. I would have thought that Aberdeen City Council would be trying to increase not decrease potential red squirrel habitat in order to be in line with their partnership with the ‘Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel Project’. It is especially surprising as red squirrels have been spotted as nearby as the Camphill Estate (see ‘squirrel sightings’ on scottishsquirrels.org.)

    As these mature trees are supporting an abundance of insects, there is the possibility of bats also relying on the trees. Again, it is the wrong time of year to fell a bat roost, as at this time of year breeding females may be using them as maternity sites. Even if they aren’t using the trees for roosting, bats use tree lines as linear features which guide them on their commuting routes between their roosting location and foraging areas. Bats are a protected species and it may be worthwhile for Diane McKay to get in touch with the Bat Conservation Trust.

    Why did they waste time sending out a survey when in the end they don’t go along with the majority of written replies but instead ‘mind read’ what the silent majority want? Is this just to tick a box to say they have ‘consulted’ the community? This is not democracy. It saddens me that we can’t rely on the council to play by the rules and that despite many good reasons for not destroying this habitat, especially at this time of year, they go ahead and do it anyway.

  6. Hi Diane, Sorry this has happened and the council has been so intransigent. City councils tend to listen more to group action. From my experience of getting a wildflower meadow established, there’s a procedure which will give the best chance of yielding the results you want.
    Firstly see if there is a local Councillor who holds surgeries which handle complaints like this. They are actively looking for issues to pursue and will be in a strong position of authority in the council. They will be likely to listen to you and act for you, especially if you tell them there is a majority of people on board.
    They will also suggest further action, maybe joining a Community Council and also rallying a few people with .placards.
    That would be a photo opportunity which would get you noticed by the newspapers who like to have a bit of drama to report, with very strong preference for a photo to illustrate it.
    There’s also your local Green representatives who would be likely to want to help – maybe bring it up with the Scottish Government. Don’t give up. The silent majority needs some opposition!

  7. As someone who Ives in Lewisvale We are all happy to have the trees removed and the area cleaned up . There are more trees getting planted I have seen the damage the branches have caused. There are a few young people who live here and who own there home.

  8. Hello Ann,
    Thank you very much for joining this conversation. As I said earlier, we are new to the area – perhaps you can shed some light on the situation and explain what damage has been done? It seems to me that there are very few branches at the Lewisvale side – most of them seem to have been removed already.

    Do you feel that it’s necessary to fell the whole belt of trees?

    When you say “We are ALL happy to have the trees removed” how many people does that include? – In response to the Council’s letter, only 6 people in the whole area (52 households) stated that they were in favour of felling the trees.

    Also, please could you explain how removing the trees will “clean up” the area?

    I don’t see how the age of residents or their home ownership status has any bearing on the issue, so I’m not sure of the point you are making – presumably the residents made the choice to purchase a property adjacent to trees.

    Kind regards

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