Uproar in town after walnut trees planted by late headmaster are chopped down
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Residents in Stowmarket are in uproar after a trio of walnut trees were removed from the town's Walnut Tree Walk without warning - and no consultation.
The trees had been planted by former headmaster Mike Arbon on the old middle school site around 15 to 20 years ago, because the road bore no trees of its name. Mr Arbon has since died.
A spokesperson for Mid Suffolk District Council said the decision to remove the three trees "was as a result of an notice issued by Suffolk County Council Highways Licencing and Enforcement, giving us 21 days to clear trees overhanging the road".
The spokesperson stressed it was not part of plans to redevelop the middle school site and added: "Legally, we had to clear any vegetation 2.6m above any pavement and 5.2m above the road.
"We cut back two of the trees, but three of the trees closest to the fence had to be removed in order to avoid them having to be cut back again during the summer months – which would then have endangered nesting birds."
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The council reassured residents: "We can reassure residents that there will always be walnut trees in Walnut Tree Walk."
However Walnut Tree Walk resident Gaynor Scott said: "I came home from work on Friday, to find they had cut the trees down. I was fuming."
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Mrs Scott said that anger about the trees had gathered momentum in the town in recent days.
"It's just shocking," said Mrs Scott.
She said she was also concerned about the impact of the trees being cut down on the late Mr Arbon's family.
Sharri McGarry of the Stowmarket Eco Futures group said that communication on the plans had been poor.
"Stowmarket town is in uproar over this," said Ms McGarry.
"Nobody knew about it. The residents had no idea they would be cut down."
Ms McGarry said she didn't understand why the trees were not simply cut back if they posed highways issues.
"People are just fed up," said Ms McGarry,
"They don't feel listened to."
The council spokesperson said: “We regret that we did not offer this reassurance to local residents before this recent work was carried out and steps are now being put in place to ensure this does not happen again in future.”
John Matthissen, Green opposition spokesman at Mid Suffolk District Council, said the incident was "enormously upsetting" and "completely counter" to what he and other Green Party councillors work for.
The Mid Suffolk District Council spokesperson added: “We are fully aware of the importance of trees and biodiversity across our district – and, of course, the importance of these particular trees as a legacy left by the school’s former headmaster.
"That’s why, as a key part of our plans to build 38 affordable homes on the site, we have already pledged to replace every walnut tree removed, replanting healthy walnut trees on the site for future generations to enjoy."