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UNEXPECTED work on Melksham park’s iconic poplar trees, arranged by Wiltshire Council, caused a flurry of concern on social media last week. As a result, the mayor says that the upset caused to local residents could have been prevented if correct information was given by Wiltshire Council.
The iconic trees that line the playing fields at King George V park were saved from the chop last year after concerns were raised for their risk to public safety. Due to the town rallying together and an independent report that showed not all trees needed to be felled, only three due to disease, the rest were saved.
However, concern was raised again last week when Wiltshire Council contracted work to remove the three diseased trees, as well as the pruning of the remaining trees and also lobbing of trees in the car park. This was despite a recent press release stating only pruning work was to be carried out.
The press release stated, “tree surgeon specialists will prune around three or four metres off the 25 trees at the park to prevent old branches falling and to invigorate new growth.” (with no mention of the complete removal of the three diseased trees).
Trevor Davies from Conservation Contractors, who was carrying out the work, told Melksham News, “The last three trees are diseased, so that’s why they are coming out, the remaining trees – we are reducing the size of them by about 4 metres above the original pruning sites. “
After printing the press release in the last issue of Melksham News readers also raised concern about the time of year in which this work is being carried out. Jan Appleby, who wrote to Melksham News said, “I have grave concerns, I hope I’m proved wrong, about the pruning at this time of the year. It’s always been my opinion and belief that trees should only be pruned or lopped when the tree is dormant, autumn/winter or spring before the sap rises.
“Pruning at this time of the year could have detrimental effect on the trees and even cause disease and death. Could this be a ploy by the local council to achieve the results that they originally wanted, but say it had nothing to do with them?”
In response to the concern, Trevor Davies said, “With certain trees, it would be more detrimental to pruning them at certain times of the year, but poplar trees are quite hardy, they will come back from anything really. We have been contracted by Wiltshire Council and are following their instructions.”
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson responded, “These trees are being cut back to help preserve them for as long as possible and to prevent them causing any safety issues for passers-by. We had agreement from the town council to cut them back and we thought it sensible to do this work now, when they’re in leaf, rather than leave it much longer which would have increased the potential for further safety concerns.
“The majority of the trees have been cut back by around four metres but to ensure uniformity, a handful have been cut back slightly more. We have unfortunately also had to remove three trees altogether, as their prospects of lasting much longer were not good.
“The current scene on-site may look a little dramatic, as this type of essential work always does, but it is being carried out with the best of intentions and we hope the trees will be in place for many more years to come.”
The mayor of Melksham, cllr Adrienne Westbrook claims that chaos and upset around the town could have been kept to a minimum if Wiltshire Council had been clearer and more honest about what work they were carrying out.
Cllr Westbrook said, “If Wiltshire Council had told us the truth, there would be far less concern in Melksham. We knew that the three diseased ones were being felled, although it wasn’t in their recent press release to happen now. We were under the assumption that they were being felled because their roots were growing into the skate park, and we knew they were being pruned, but not by as much as they have been and we didn’t know about the trees in the car park!
“Honesty and transparency is all we are asking for from Wiltshire Council. It would solve the problem of people being upset. The timing of this work has caused a lot of the chaos; if it had been done in the winter, it would look less dramatic as they would be felling bare trees. Now, the mass amount of greenery has caused the park to look a mess.
“Everyone knows that trees need to be pruned, we do it in our own gardens, but we just wish that Wiltshire Council were more open and truthful about the work they are doing.”
Above: Trevor Davies from Conservation Contractors, during the work last week.