Wednesday 19 June 2019

Residents move to protect Skerries trees from the chop

Ken Phelan

Residents in Skerries held protest 'vigils' over the removal by Fingal County Council of mature trees along the town's main thoroughfare, which they claim they had not been given adequate notice of by the local authority.

A number of fifty to sixty-year old Norwegian maple and London plane trees were felled by the council on Church Street last week, allegedly due to concerns over damaged footpaths and legal actions against the council.

A recent statement from the local authority confirmed plans for the removal of twelve trees on Church Street, which was followed by an initial felling last Tuesday, May 28.

Speaking to The Fingal Independent last week, Shane Holland, a resident of Church Street, voiced his concern over removal of the trees, which are a distinctive feature of the small seaside town.

He said: 'It kicked off with a seven day notice last week, then the felling started last Tuesday. Monday I was doing all my representations to the Department of Agriculture, trying to get protection for the trees because I knew this was coming down the tracks.

'I spoke to the Operations depot manager (of Fingal County Council) in Balbriggan, and he had a large list of trees in north Fingal that were up for the chop. Because I'm working as a sculptor and I'm working with the council and have a relationship with them, I went in to voice my concerns, and asked them what was going on.'

Following confirmation from the council that the felling was going ahead, Shane attempted to contact a number of councillors but was unsuccessful. Although two councillors had expressed their support, they had not been officially 'sworn in' by the council following the recent local elections, and couldn't help.

Shane said: 'Ultimately, I feel this about the council not being willing to engage with having any sort of creative solution with dealing with mature trees, they just want to get rid of them and plant young trees.

'They're going to take at least a third of the trees out of Church Street, which is a hugely important thoroughfare in Skerries.

'It'll take forty or fifty years for these to come back, and we as residents feel that if they take the trees out, a lot of them aren't going to go back up.'

Shane chained his van to a tree outside of his home last week in protest, while other residents like Billy O'Dea and Frank Kavanagh protested outside also. Shane said he's looking for 'a proper talk and sit down', and 'a meaningful public consultation and representation' on the issue, and he feels the decision to go through with the felling on Church Street was rushed through by the council.

He said: 'We are doing this for our children's future in some ways, because they're urban trees and they're taking out carbon from vehicles for everybody in an urban setting.'

The Skerries resident concluded: 'We don't want trees planted in lieu or on a ring road, or planted up in Ardgillan - they are the most important things in our lives going forward.'

Fingal Independent