Dear Sir

 

Felling of trees in Stanborough Park

                                                  

The more this affair goes on, the more troubling it becomes.

 

We have always been puzzled why the Borough Council adopted such a determined stance to cut all the trees down in the first place and then, when challenged, in the south car park only.  Now perhaps we are getting closer to finding out what the real driving force behind it all has been?

 

In a letter from Welwyn Hatfield Leisure Ltd (Finesse Leisure to you and me) to the Council dated 12 March, we now learn that this company would rather have all the trees felled in the north car park as well because otherwise it is concerned that it would increase its maintenance costs by about £10,000 per annum.  Over a ten to twenty year programme, they say it would cost the company some £100,000 to £200,000 extra. 

 

Further, Finesse is now suggesting that all Lombardy Poplar trees that remain standing within the area they manage should be subjected to “resistograph internal inspections” to ensure that they are not rotten either.  So we wonder why this approach was not undertaken at the outset.  It would have avoided much of the row that the Council has had to endure subsequently.  Obviously, if the trees in the north car park are not felled along with those still standing beyond the south car park, we learn that Finesse are requesting that the Council fund the additional maintenance costs they would incur. 

 

Perhaps this is what lies at the heart of the issue?  It probably also explains why there appears to be no formal agreement for Finesse to manage the trees anyway.  Quite simply, they do not want the liability passed on to them and may not even sign an agreement unless the risks to them and possible costs are eliminated; and as a commercial concern, this is hardly surprising.

 

This raises other issues.  Decisions about how our town – this garden city – should not be dictated by the commercial considerations of a company employed to manage Stanborough Park.  This is absurd and quite wrong.  Are we seriously going to even consider a situation when Serco, for example, advocate the cutting down of all the Lombardy Poplars in Parkway because it is “cheaper for them”: they would have no leaves to sweep up!   The position in Stanborough Park is no different.

 

This means that the exclusion contained in the Council’s own Tree Strategy (namely, those trees in Stanborough Park, King George V Playing Fields, leisure centres, Panshanger Golf Club and Money Hole open space – paragraph 3.4) where the Council is referred to as “not directly responsible” and that Finesse is stated to manage the trees on “behalf of the Borough” is immediately changed so that they are brought back under the unambiguous control of the Council.

 

Trees are an intrinsic part of this town.  It is essential that this nebulous relationship between Council and contractor be changed so that all trees within the Borough and owned by them are seen to be properly controlled by them.  The trees of our landscape must be controlled by the Borough Council where the residents can, in the final analysis, exercise their democratic right of control. 

 

Residents of the town pay significant council tax to have their landscape looked after properly:  this does not mean flattening the trees in order to save some money for the commercial benefit of their contractors!

 

Yours faithfully

 

 

John Marks

Chairman

Welwyn Garden City Society