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Public safety a top priority when assessing damaged trees

Published: 14 November 2018

Public safety a top priority Some of the damage to the Cowick Barton oak

Public safety is paramount when assessing storm damaged trees, Exeter City Council has said today.

“Everyone loves trees and we do everything possible to allow them to flourish, however we sometimes have to make some tough decisions and consider the risk that they pose, especially when they have suffered damage over the years,” said Cllr David Harvey, Lead Councillor for Place.

The local authority said it places a high value on all its trees but must consider the risks to the public when a tree is badly damaged or reaches the end of its life.

The Council was responding to calls for a mature oak situated next to the tennis courts at Cowick Barton Playing Fields, not to be monolithed (cut back to six to eight metre stump). 

The tree was damaged in a recent storm and closer inspection has revealed numerous areas of scarring and decay over the years. The main stem and primary branch framework that supports the crown is extensively decayed.

Cllr Harvey said it was difficult balancing the protection of trees and wildlife eco-systems with the protection of residents and visitors.

“Six years ago a branch weighing a tonne came crashing down without warning and if it had struck someone it would have undoubtedly have killed or seriously injured them,” he added.

After fully exploring the options available, including fencing off the part of the park where the tree is situated, re-routing the pathway to run through the football pitch and enclosing the tree, the best solution for safety and for bio-diversity was to monolith the oak.

Retained wood from the surgery will be used in the Alcoa outdoor exercise equipment area in the playing fields and decaying wood will be placed in areas around the perimeter of the fields to create habitats for hedgehogs, mice, shrews, insects and mosses and fungi.

Cllr Harvey added: “These wildlife homes might now form part of a children’s nature trail which with the help of the local community, could be something interesting for children to discover while learning about nature and the way we can all cohabit our much-loved green spaces together."

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