Residents furious after cherry blossoms cut down

Date published: 16 May 2018

Local residents are furious after several cherry blossom trees have been cut down on Church Street in Heywood.

The pretty pink blossoms were cut down over the second weekend of May, as a safety precaution arising from the roots causing damage to the pavements.

However, many residents have expressed fury at their removal, calling the decision ‘dreadful’ and ‘disgusting’.

Located outside Simpsons Furniture, a new independent business set to open in mid-June, the decision to remove the trees was ultimately that of the landlord.

Owners of the business, Gary and Karen Simpson, who are new to Heywood, said: “We are leasing the premises, but it has been the landlord's decision to remove the trees. We believe this has been on the cards for some two-years now and that it has been undertaken with the best intentions, based on a 'health and safety' platform.”

Gary and Karen, who had traded from Bury Market since September 2017, added: “Unfortunately, we live in a claim culture now, and after speaking with the landlord he has informed us that he has already had to fund the bill for a claim from a pedestrian who was injured due to the uneven footpath as a result of the tree roots. He therefore took the decision to remove the trees and replace them with smaller, more manageable shrubbery, soon to be planted.”

David Stross, who authorised the cutting of the trees, explained: “Regretfully, I authorised cutting the trees down in front of the old job centre, on behalf of the site management company. As a person with a local interest, I didn’t want to, as they do look so beautiful.

“However, cherry blossom trees only actually each bloom for about a week each, officially up to a maximum of 14 days. Similarly, most of the pink petals had already fallen off in the last week.

“It was a real dilemma that has haunted me for two years, but eventually there was no other option. Not only do they look unsightly most of the year, and cause considerable regular problems with the brickwork on the property adjacent, the unavoidable factor was that the growth of the roots underground have disturbed the pavement to such an extent that it became a public hazard over recent years.

“Cherry blossom trees are expected to live 30-40 years, and were at the end of their life, having been planted around 1979. This is probably why the pavement is in such poor condition. 

"We have had a number of complaints about the uneven pavement, and it was two years ago that an elderly lady tripped and injured herself quite badly.”

Mr Stross continued: “As it happens, this lady worked on the market and knew the land and trees well, but she still had an accident and claimed for costs and compensation against the council for allowing the pavement to be dangerous. Some time later it transpired that it was not the council’s responsibility as that part of the pavement is private land.

“After an expensive claim against the landlord for her injuries, there was no other option to prevent further accidents and injuries but to cut down the trees due to the danger of their roots.

“Due to the number of people who complained about the uneven pavement, and the risk of injuries to others, especially old people and the visually impaired, this needed doing to prevent it getting progressively worse. It has cost over £10,000 and accordingly, we have had to go to considerable effort for public safety.”

He added: “We now have to wait a few months while the roots die and settle, before we should re-lay the pavement further and we look forward to providing some green-all-year-round soft landscaping to suit.

“Any ideas are welcome to help it become as nice as possible, and safe all year round. Hopefully you will soon be satisfied with the combination of pretty appearance and safe passage that we can provide to this important and beautiful area of Heywood.”

MP for the area, Liz McInnes, said: "Two people have contacted my office about this and we will be contacting the Council during office hours.

"I share people's sadness at this; it is distressing to see these beautiful trees removed. The trouble with acts like this is that once the trees are gone, they are gone and it's very difficult to replace a mature tree.

"We will see what the Council have to say and what can be done."

Rochdale Borough Council has been contacted for comment.

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