The limes they are a-changing on our tree-lined avenues
I bought the Times on Tuesday, not to see if I was in it for editing a newspaper which accepts political advertising, but to read David Aaronovitch – only to be stopped in my tracks by the page one picture. It showed a tree in Berkeley Square which had be
I bought the Times on Tuesday, not to see if I was in it for editing a newspaper which accepts political advertising, but to read David Aaronovitch - only to be stopped in my tracks by the page one picture.
It showed a tree in Berkeley Square which had been valued by a council officer at a staggering £750,000. Now, it may or may not be the one on which the famous singing nightingale perched, but three quarters of a million quid still seemed an awful lot of money for a tree.
It made me wonder what value might have been placed by the same officer, a Mr Tipping of Barnet Council, on the equally aesthetic lime I had seen so brutally attacked by Haringey Council's chainsaws just a day earlier, on what is arguably Crouch End's finest and leafiest road.
Crouch End isn't Mayfair, admittedly, but it does have much friendlier neighbours. And owls and jays as well as nightingales.
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Was it half a million pounds worth of ancient wood that was reduced to sawdust before my very eyes? Even at say £375,000, half the Mayfair estimate, it was still a lot of cash to be fed so uncaringly into a mulcher, courtesy of Haringey tree officer Clare Carter's pronouncement that the offending tree was guilty of causing problems in adjoining properties (the nearest of which is some 50 feet away).
And so while Mr Tipping's valuations might seem a bit excessive, I can only concur with his view that the valuation exercise was necessary because councils, unwilling to fight expensive battles over liability, are far too willing to cave in to insurers who demand the destruction of trees purely on 'suspicion' of causing damage. This usually means - and was certainly the case in Crouch End - that expensive underpinning works can be avoided on the basis that everything will be hunky dory once the offending tree is felled.
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But the unhappy upshot is that healthy, mature trees are turned into matchsticks.
Thankfully, people like Mr Tipping have had enough of this arboreal brutality. His valuation system may seem slightly crackpot but the good news is that it is being adopted by every local authority in the country to prevent the routine felling of specimens that are conveniently blamed for subsidence in buildings.
The bad news, sadly, is that it is too late for the once-towering Haslemere Road lime, which is already on its way to the knacker's yard, or wherever it is that the remnants of these once proud and magnificent specimens are shipped to.
A neighbour takes some comfort from the fact that from her window, the lime's removal has opened up a previously unseen view of another beautiful tree.
I can only hope that by the time the insurance companies and the council turn any destructive thoughts towards it, Mr Tipping's more enlightened view will have prevailed.