Apology issued over Stowmarket walnut tree errors

Walnut trees have been felled in Stowmarket 

Walnut trees have been felled in Stowmarket - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A formal apology has been made over the mistaken removal of a trio of walnut trees planted by a revered former headmaster in Mid Suffolk.

Mid Suffolk District Council confirmed last month that three walnut trees in Walnut Tree Walk in Stowmarket had been removed mistakenly as a result of a misunderstanding with the county highways authority.

The trees were planted by late Stowmarket Middle School headteacher Mike Arbon more than 15 years ago because the avenue did not have any trees of its namesake. Their felling prompted an outcry from the community.

At Thursday night's full council meeting, Conservative cabinet member for the environment, Jessica Fleming, issued an apology.

Mid Suffolk cabinet member for the environment Jessica Fleming. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Mid Suffolk cabinet member for the environment, Jessica Fleming, apologised for the error over the Stowmarket walnut trees

"The district and I on behalf of the district have made a public statement in the East Anglian recently that makes it clear that the council regrets the loss of these trees," she said.

"I too personally regret the loss of the three walnut trees which we cut down on Walnut Tree Walk following miscommunications and what appears to have been errors of judgement on site.

"Mistakes happen as we all know, and this was one of them.

"Important lessons have been learnt and measures are being put in place to avoid any similar error in the future.

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"As cabinet member for environment, including public realm, I am sorry that this happened, and realise that the trees were planted by a former headmaster of the middle school.

Sharri McGarry next to where the the Walnut Trees were in Walnut Tree Walk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BRO

Stowmarket is said to be in uproar following the trees' removal - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"The council intends to make as much amends as it can by ensuring that healthy and well located replacement trees are planted as soon as feasible as part of the agreed planning conditions."

According to Mid Suffolk council, it had been contacted to cut back overgrown buddleia by Suffolk County Council last year, but when crews arrived in January it was believed the order referred to those trees, rather than overhanging buddleia which had already been removed by others.

It prompted a swathe of public backlash from locals about the trees' removal without warning, and the distress it may cause the late Mr Arbon's family.

The former middle school site is being developed for 38 homes after planning approval was granted last summer.

Cllr Andrew Stringer said there were too many homes planned for the A14 corridor. Picture: SARAH LU

Cllr Andrew Stringer said there were too many homes planned for the A14 corridor. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Green councillor Andrew Stringer, who asked for a rethink of the plans in light of the error, said: "I welcome the public apology from Councillor Fleming. However, I am disappointed that the council will not relook at their planning permission.

"The present designs necessitates the widening of Walnut Tree Walk, thus removing walnut trees - surely in light of the history of these trees we could relook at our proposals and use the existing access to eradicate the need to remove any more trees in this location?"