UPDATE: 24th May 2017
I'm delighted to inform you that the Council has agreed to the meeting I have requested (see background information below). This gives us another chance to find a new solution which is both safe and protects many of the chestnut trees slated for felling later this year.
The iconic chestnut trees on Tooting Common are much-loved by Tooting residents. Having lived near the Common for the past 17 years, and as a regular visitor to the playground on Chestnut Avenue with my wife and young children, I too greatly appreciate them. So I share the concern over the trees' decline and the potential need to cut many of them down.
By way of background, since 2015 Wandsworth Council has been concerned about the deteriorating condition of the trees lining Chestnut Avenue. Over that time various tree experts have been commissioned by the Council to assess the safety risk that the diseased trees - about 80 in total - pose to the public. The consultants' reports conclude that the balance of risk in regards to safety is such that the diseased trees should be felled and replaced with new trees.
The trees are a huge asset to the community - historically, visually and envionmentally - and it is a tragedy that so many of them are now threatened by illness and structural decline.
Understandably, many local people are concerned that the Council is taking this action and they have formed a campaign group - Save Chestnut Avenue - to challenge the Council's decision. They recently commissioned their own report from another tree expert, Jeremy Barrell, which suggests that the trees' decline could be safely managed over many years, such that felling them is not necessary.
Save Chestnut Avenue have recently asked me to look into the situation and see what can be done to 'Stop The Chop', currently planned by the Council for November this year. As a lay person it is hard to form a strong conclusion on the science behind the different reports and their differing views. However, I understand that since the Barrell report was issued, there has not been a meeting between the experts to discuss and debate the full set of reports produced on this topic.
Therefore I am requesting that the Council's tree experts and Mr Barrell meet as soon as possible to go through all of the various reports, reaching a consensus on the safety risk posed if the decline of these chestnut trees were managed, rather than felled. Once a scientific position is reached, I would hope that an action plan can be agreed that is appropriate for the level of risk. Noone wishes to see public safety compromised, but neither do we wish to see the trees removed if plausible alternatives exist.