Bridgwater has seen trees chopped down and left half standing over the past few months leading to a sense of despair that there was a concerted plan or maybe lack of one, by ‘the council’ to get away with this widespread destruction of our greenery. So on Friday when a post appeared on Bridgwater Past n Present facebook site claiming ‘the council had plans to chop down most of the cherry trees in Hamp Green Rise’ more than 200 comments vented their opposition and a petition to prevent further destruction went viral. For ward councillors – who knew nothing of this – immediate investigation was needed.
Town Council Leader and Westover ward councillor Brian Smedley visited the site at once with new Town Council Climate Change portfolio holder Li Gibson and found no indication of intent by any of the 3 councils and so ,as Town had no ability, power nor desire to destroy trees, it must be one of the other 2. Someone ‘in a Sedgemoor van’ had been there and one resident said she had been told of 7 or 8 trees ‘facing the axe’. But Sedgemoor District Council owned no trees in the area -however it did act as an agent for Somerset County. The mystery was unravelling.
County Highway Trees ‘being inspected’
By Monday morning, when Council officers of both District and County were back at their desks, it became clear that it was Somerset that was the guilty party. A reply to Cllr Smedley from head of Sedgemoors Environmental Service, Adrian Gardner, confirmed that Somerset had recently undertaken an inspection of ‘Highway Trees’ and had identified 2 trees in Hamp Green Rise (amongst others elsewhere) as ‘needing removal due to their condition’.
But what was their ‘condition’ and were there ‘alternatives’, would they be ‘replaced’, Somerset doesn’t have much money at the moment so might it be a ‘cheap fix’. It was clear that no consultation with Councillors or residents had taken place and so having identified the culprits, it was now down to the correct Councillor holding them to account. The County Councillor for that part of Westover is Cllr Leigh Redman, who at once intervened and contacted the County Highways Arboriculturist Ben Coles who at once paused the process and agreed that nothing further will happen until a formal meeting and review had been actioned.
Cllr Smedley said “This is an important test case because Town Council policy is to resist any removal of trees without full public consultation and a good reason with alternatives. We have recently appointed new councillor Li Gibson as our portfolio holder for Climate Change and she will be setting up a public ‘Climate Change Forum’ very shortly which everyone is welcome to join. What is important here is that we managed to get this not only halted but they have agreed that they can’t go ahead without taking the public and their representatives with them. There has to be a system of notification and consultation with ward members and the public in these cases. “
Bridgwater Needs to Breathe
Li Gibson said “Trees are the lungs of the earth and Bridgwater needs to breath. We need to care for the trees that we have and instead be planting more and on a large scale. Trees are beautiful, they enhance the environment and are part of the healing process against climate change.”
Westover resident Clare Ingram has set up a petition called “Save the trees in Bridgwater” which says “Over recent months Sedgemoor District Council has cut down multiple trees throughout our town.With climate change being one of the worlds biggest challenges we have to face, now is the time to be planting and saving trees not cutting them down.
We need trees to breath. With the ever increasing number of houses being built and extra traffic on the roads, we have more air pollution in the town than ever. We need clean air for our health.We also need trees for the ever decreasing wildlife population from birds to bees and everything in between.
While I understand some trees are being felled due to disease, they are not being replaced. Those few trees that do get replaced are with the smallest, cheapest trees possible so some die anyway or take decades to establish. Many are felled due to redevelopment to “improve” the town again, most of which are not being replaced. Then there are trees felled for no obvious reason as to why as we seem to always be kept in the dark by the council.
The point of this petition is to show the council we care about our town, our trees, our wildlife and our health and to plead with the council to stop this pointless felling of trees and to invest in the future health and wellbeing of the towns residents by planting more trees for the environment.
We need to keep our trees and we need to plant more all over Bridgwater to replace the ones already gone. We also need to plant many more new, mature trees in all the new housing estates being built all over the town, along roads, parks and every other available unused wasted space.
In the meantime we as residents can do our part by planting our own trees in our own gardens to get the ball rolling. Whether you have a large or small garden you can get trees suitable for any size even if it’s just a dwarf tree in a pot on your patio, every tree helps.
Let’s make Bridgwater beautiful again.“
You can access the petition here.