Ancient trees damaged during Stoke Newington Park’s �9m refurb

Professional tree specialist says the true extent of tree damage may not be apparent for several years

Ancient trees damaged during the �9m overhaul of Clissold Park could die because industry guidelines to protect them were not followed, a tree specialist has warned.

Although the damage inflicted may not be apparent for another ten years, Russell Miller – who runs voluntary tree maintenance group Tree Musketeers – estimates at least 20 of the park’s established trees – many of which are over 100 years old - could be dying.

A tree protection plan was commissioned by the council in December 2007, prior to the Heritage Lottery Fund park restoration project commencing last January.

But the plan was not followed, and neither were British Standard industry guidelines.

Root protection areas (RPA) - the minimum areas needing protection to ensure tree roots are not killed through oxygen starvation because of soil compaction - were not marked or fenced.

Heavy vehicles weighing several tonnes were allowed to drive over the RPAs, and even construction work, like digging trenches and building new paths, was taking place within that area too.

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“The big problem is the trees don’t die instantly, the tree might die years later, so unless you know what you are doing, you don’t see the result - that’s why there are industry guidelines,” explained Mr Miller.

“Trees take a long time to grow and a long time to die, and no fencing, or completely inadequate fencing, has led to damage of many priceless old trees.

“If this happened on a private construction site it would be appalling, but this is much, much worse because it has happened in a massive �9m publicly funded project in Hackney’s premier public park.”

Mr Miller began warning park officials that the industry standards were not being carried out a month into the works, but he says trees are still being damaged because paths are being built too close to trees and vehicles are still being parked under them.

He is taking his complaint to the Ombudsman, an independent body which investigates complaints against councils, because he feels Hackney Council has failed to address his complaints.

A council spokeswoman said the park’s arboricultural manager is now inspecting the site every two weeks to ensure the contractors are meeting their obligations.

“The contractor initially failed to meet their obligations and a meeting was held between the council and the contractor in which their obligations on tree care were made clear,” she said.

She added that some trees were going to have the soil underneath the tree canopy decompacted using high pressure air once surrounding works are completed to alleviate any soil compaction that may have occurred.

“We have met to discuss these issues with Russell Miller on a number of occasions, and are due to meet him again in February,” she added.