Residents ask: “Give us our trees back”

UPDATED: Residents in Willow road in Bournville have accused the City Council of failing to adhere to conservation area rules by removing trees from the length of their road and then failing to reinstate them due to costs.

Sue Joyce (featured in our video), speaking on behalf of a residents group for Acacia and Willow roads, said although the trees were taken off for legitimate reasons, because they had died or were a potential danger, the extra costs involved in replacing trees into pavements means that the council has refused to reinstate them.

Sue said: “what has annoyed us is that when we fell trees in our back gardens we have to replace them as we are in a conservation area. The Council aren’t prepared to do the same as we are.” She went on to claim that the council had failed to respond to initial concerns quickly enough: “in the usual manner our emails just seemed to go backwards and forwards between us, Councillor Tim Huxtable and various council personnel responsible for trees in the area”

In response to our enquiries Cllr Huxtable released a statement about future plans for tree planting in Bournville: “I am very supportive of the views of local residents in Acacia Road and Willow Road that more street trees should be planted in the above roads (as well as other roads in Bournville). The Bournville Ward Committee are so committed to increasing the number of street trees, the Committee has allocated an additional £2000 over and above our standard allocation from the City Council for additional street trees. It is a great shame that when the original street trees were removed (due to disease) the existing tree pits were filled in. This would not be allowed to happen today.”

Planting trees in paved areas can cost over £900 while planting new trees in grass verges is only £200. Willow road does not have a grass verge, therefore there are no immediate plans to place trees there as it would result in fewer trees being planted in Bournville overall.

Sue Joyce has pointed out that Willow road is part of the ‘tourist trail’ for Bournville and now looks very different in comparison to other streets: “it’s a shame as Willow road would have been full of Lime trees originally, it now looks really bare”

Cllr Huxtable has identified that the City Council Highways Private Finance Initiative may provide a future opportunity to re-plant the trees as a city-wide programme of highway improvements are rolled out: “This will mean many street trees could be planted along Willow Road and Acacia Road (and other roads in Bournville) at the appropriate time.” The Highways PFI will not start until April 2010 and will aim to improve the condition of all Birmingham’s footways to a ‘fair’ condition.

UPDATE: Cllr Huxtable has been in touch with us to say: “In Bournville Ward we have been replanting trees in the pavement, but only where the tree pits still exist. As mentioned in my original email, the problem in Acacia Road and Willow Road is that the tree pits were filled in by the City Council. I don’t know when the trees were removed in Acacia Road and Willow Road but now in Bournville Ward (when trees are removed) these trees pits in the pavement are not paved over so trees can be replanted.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Martin Mullaney over on The Stirrer website forum has said: “In Moseley and kings Heath Ward we annually allocate £10,000 from Community Chest funds to dig tree pits in paved areas. The cost of digging a tree pit in a paved area is about £300. The cost of digging a tree pit in a grass verge is zero. So with £10,000 we can dig just over 30 tree pits in paved areas. The cost of a semi-mature sapling is at most £200.”

[Let us know if you have any old pictures of a more tree-lined Willow road. Email dave [at] daveharte.com] A complete list of the locations identified for new tree planting has been made available to Bournville Village website and we’ll be publishing a map of locations soon.

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