Islington Council ignores own officers and policy to chop down healthy tree

Councillor Greg Foxsmith

Councillor Greg Foxsmith - Credit: Archant

Trees across Islington could be at risk after a healthy specimen was cut down at the whim of councillors – against the advice of specialist tree officers.

Cllr Richard Greening

Cllr Richard Greening - Credit: Archant

And the opposition Lib Dem group say this sets a worrying trend which could see Islington Council exercising untamed power.

On March 4, a healthy pear tree in Gillespie Road, Highbury, was chopped down, even though council rules specifically bans felling trees unless they are diseased or dying.

Tree officers opposed chopping the tree down and expressed concerns about the precedent it would set.

But it was felled despite this because the three Highbury West councillors – Theresa Debono, Richard Greening and Andy Hull – wanted the pear tree chopped after a nearby resident with a wasp allergy complained it attracted the insects.

Cllr Greg Foxsmith, from the Lib Dem group, said: “This is worrying for Islington’s trees and worrying for council policy in general.

“The report clearly says there was nothing wrong with the tree and not to chop it down, but behind closed doors the council decided to do it anyway.

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”If they can ignore policy on this, it makes you wonder what else they’ll do next – write off parking tickets for each other? It’s like they are a law unto themselves.”

Tree officers said there was no record of anyone being stung by wasps near the 25-year-old tree – valued at almost £10,000 – or of evidence that wasps were living in it.

Cllr Foxmith added: “Council tree experts did not support the move and the council’s own policy bans this kind of chainsaw massacre.

“But arrogant Labour councillors chose to ride roughshod over existing policy and now Islington residents have lost yet another healthy tree.”

Cllr Richard Greening said: “The residents live there and if they say they have seen wasps there is no reason to doubt them. The risk is so high for people with allergies that on this occasion it was worth going against tree officers.

“This has been taken out of all proportion – it is right that councillors should lobby for their constituents. Not every decision that goes against council policy should have to be made in public.”