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Two-year wait for action as ancient tree takes root

PUBLISHED: 15:36 28 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:54 07 September 2010

Rob Antrim Haringey Council was told nearly two years ago that a tree it owned was causing subsidence problems to neighbouring properties but failed to act, Broadway has learned.

Rob Antrim

Haringey Council was told nearly two years ago that a tree it owned was causing subsidence problems to neighbouring properties but failed to act, Broadway has learned.

The mature 50ft lime, in the grounds of the council-owned Red Gables Family Centre on Haslemere Road, was linked by insurers to subsidence in neighbouring flats as far back as April 2006. Haringey argued there was nothing to connect the tree to any subsidence.

But damage to the nearby properties worsened and earlier this year the house insurers decided that underpinning work was necessary. They warned council solicitors to expect a bill, estimated at more than £90,000, for a 'significant scheme' of works.

The insurers also indicated that the claim could be reduced to £15,000 if the tree was removed, thus negating the need for underpinning. Within days the council completely changed its stance.

On the day underpinning was due to start a notice was placed on the tree by council arboriculturist Clare Carter, stating that it had been 'proved to have contributed' to damage to a nearby property.

The sudden change in the council's position has angered residents in the flats. Writer Michael Kustow, who is consulting solicitors, had committed to more than £8,000 for alternative accommodation during underpinning, only for the works to be abandoned at a day's notice. "The council has been seriously negligent,'' he said.

There is also anger among residents who feel that the tree contributes to the area and could have been saved had the council not dragged its feet.

Highgate's unofficial tree champion, Cllr Bob Hare, has not given up hope. Cllr Hare, who has persuaded the council not to axe a number of trees earmarked for felling in similar circumstances, agrees with residents that the attractive lime could still be saved.

Installation of a root barrier between the tree and the building, which stands more than 40 feet away, is one possibility that has worked elsewhere, he says.

But Mr Kustow said: "Because of the council's delay, installing a root barrier now would be like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

"The roots have already done their undermining work, and the cracks are getting worse by the week. I would regret the loss of this noble tree, but Haringey's inaction has meant that unfortunately its removal and replacement seems the only reliable option."

A spokesman from the council said: "In these cases we compile evidence from our own experts and the claimants before making any decision. This process can take some time.

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