Locals have blasted a council’s “ridiculous” decision to chop down two 70ft trees after classing them as hedges – and giving them an ASBO.
The pair of massive cypress trees are facing the axe after a single complaint by one neighbour – apparently over their light being blocked.
The trees have sat in a quiet cul-de-sac in Horfield in Bristol for 50 years and are popular with local kids and wildlife including birds and squirrels.
Locals in Druetts Close say they are a focal point for residents – where they all meet for barbeques and their children play together.
But Bristol City Council has now slapped them with a felling notice which has been pinned to one of the trees – classing them as a “nuisance”.
It says it can’t simply cut them down to size – as they would be unlikely to survive.
The felling is on the grounds they are legally defined as a hedge – under the same laws covering anti-social behaviour orders.
The notice, which appeared on July 9, reads: “Trees causing a nuisance as defined by the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 – High Hedges Section 8.”
The Act states that if a ‘hedge’ is made up of mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs, of more than two in a line and over two metres in height, and acts as a barrier to light or access, then it is classed as a ‘high hedge’.
But locals including mum-of-three Laura Lawrenson, 40, who lives directly opposite the trees, are fuming.
She said: “How can that be classed as a hedge? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
“That is not a hedge. That is two really beautiful trees that have grown together.
”They’re obviously just defining it as a hedge as a way to get around it and have them cut down.
“It’s bonkers. It’s weird, the way they’ve done it.
“It’s also a real shame, because those trees have been there since the early 1970s, at the same time as the estate was built. Everybody is really sad about it.”
And Laura added that her three young children, aged five, three, and one, love to play around the trees with the other children on the street, and even try to climb them.
She said: “There’s 14 children on this street in total, and they all use these trees as a nice area to meet and play.
“I also think it’s so nice, in the middle of a city, to have a tree right on your doorstep that you can go out and climb.
“They’ll all really miss it if it goes”
“They’ll all really miss it if it goes. My oldest daughter used to think the tree was her tree, that it belonged to her.
“We’ll get up in the morning and look out at the tree and do a nature spot, where I’ll get my two older girls to say what nature they can spot in the tree – whether it’s a magpie or a squirrel.
“I get that the trees might be imposing for those houses that immediately back on to them.
“But to my mind, unless they can say unequivocally that this is a threat to people, or a safety issue, then why would you get rid of it?”
And former councillor Chris Coldbreath, 64, who lives two doors down from Laura, branded the situation as “ridiculous”.
He said: “I cannot see how the council can class these two massive trees as an antisocial hedge.
“I have done a lot of research and read the act thoroughly, and the definition in the act is so broad that yes, they can do this.
“But they are really taking the definition at its very broadest.
“I don’t think they are working properly within the law. The law cannot be used to remove or damage trees – and yet they are using the law to try and remove these trees.
“Let’s be realistic, the intention of the act is to stop the spread of 10ft hedges along borders.
“It wasn’t intended to chop down 70ft trees that have been in an open area for years – trees full of wildlife that is now going to be made homeless.
“The whole thing is a travesty.”
Chris added: “We were originally told that this decision was irreversible – but when you start reading the act, it can’t be, because it should never have been made in the first place.
“I am confident that they have not applied the Act in the right way, and that the decision can and should be reversed. Unfortunately, I think the chances of that are very slim.”
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Ellie Haywood said that she has lived on the street for most of her life, and feels as if she has grown up with the trees.
She said: “They’ve just been there for so long that it feels like they’re part of the road.
“I’ve lived here since I was three, and the trees have just always been there. I feel like I’ve grown up with them. It’s a shame, really. I would be sad to see them go.
“It’s just one of those things that seems quite sad. The tree is always full of squirrels and birds, and the kids love playing in it.
“It’s also really good in the summer, because we all meet there and have barbeques.
“We’re all quite tight-knit on this street, so I feel like the overriding opinion is that people don’t want to see them go.
“I feel like if the council had come and maintained them a bit over the years then maybe they wouldn’t need to be cutting them down now.”
City’s tree canopy
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “The action being taken is not a matter of council policy.
“But it is to ensure compliance with national legislation, which designates this type of tree as a hedge.
“We are responding to a complaint about the hedge, in line with the legislation, and have reviewed the options available to us.
“Reducing these trees to the necessary size would leave them unlikely to survive and removing and replanting the tree has been agreed as the best option.
“We have received a number of comments from local residents supporting this approach.
“We’re also investigating and offering further tree-planting spots to bring us closer to our aim of doubling the city’s tree canopy by 2046.’’