Letter published on the 10th September in WHT:

Dear Sir,

I was away when the meeting about the Poplar trees at Stanborough was held but following your coverage of last week’s council meeting I have now watched the u-tube video of the public meeting at the lakes on www.welwynhatfield.co.uk  and I am frankly appalled at the behaviour of the council leadership.

It is clear from the presentation given by council officers and Finesse management on 7th August that Clare Berry, who is the portfolio holder for Environment and Community, took a decision to remove all the 700 odd trees at one fell swoop, without any consultation even with ward councillors, let alone the electorate.  It is also clear that this was in response to a report dated 2006.  Now, I was a councillor for Handside from 2006 until last May, and I certainly was never shown this report, despite sitting on the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and being a ward councillor, and it appears my fellow councillors were kept equally uninformed.

At the public meeting, several other facts emerged.

1.       Finesse Leisure have failed to conduct any annual reviews of the trees they are responsible for.  The council tree officers (for whom I have the utmost respect) were clearly frustrated that they were no longer able to keep an eye on these trees since responsibility passed to Finesse.

2.       Regular pollarding of the trees is an option that could preserve them for a number of years.

3.       We are fortunate to have a well informed community who were not prepared to have the wool pulled over their eyes. 

4.       The “expert” consultant who had done the original assessment was to say the least an unconvincing witness.  He seemed to have little detailed knowledge of the trees.  When it transpired that his company was the preferred bidder to fell the trees it was understandable that the audience were incensed.

I understand that as a result of the furore, the council has been forced to put the decision on hold and seek further reports and to consult.  It is very sad therefore to see that they are in denial about this, even to the point that they would like to pretend that no decision had ever been taken. 

Worse though is their behaviour at last week’s council meeting.  For John Dean to actually congratulate Clare Berry for not attending a public meeting on an issue that was directly her responsibility is putting two fingers up to any notion of public accountability.  We see again the same attitude that lay behind the scandal of the pumping station in the Vineyard, and the lack of information about the Hatfield Town Centre development delays.

When will people in Welwyn Hatfield wake up and stop voting for conservative politicians who refuse to listen to residents and whose only response to criticism is insult and abuse?

 Nigel Quinton