CHAINSAWS were sent into Bangor’s Castle Park yesterday (Wednesday), to chop back and fell large numbers of trees.

The radical works programme was revealed in advance in a single post on an obscure subsection of Ards and North Down Council’s website – but there was no wider announcement from officials.

Councillors have complained they were only told of the massive chop at the end of last week, leaving news to eke out over the past couple of days to the shock of local environmental groups.

A survey carried out earlier this year identified over 180 trees in Castle Park in such a bad condition that they’re considered ‘not suitable for retention’ – though that doesn’t mean all of them will be cut down.

In the work that began yesterday, officials say they’ve scheduled 10 trees to come down, while 21 will be chopped back to little more than their trunks and four are to be given a ‘maintenance pruning’.

However, the survey identified many more trees that will need work done in future; some of them are in poor health, while others are in a relatively good state but need to be pruned to remove overhanging branches or chop back at overgrown foliage.

Many of the worst trees in Castle Park are suffering advanced cases of ash dieback, a highly contagious fungus that would threaten the health of many more trees if left unchecked.

Others have decayed from the inside, leaving them in a state of ‘structural decline’ that could put them at risk of collapse.

Many of the badly affected trees will be subjected to what’s known as ‘monolithing’, which involves cutting off massive amounts of dead wood in the hope that healthy branches can grow in its place.

It’s effectively a form of radical surgery performed instead of felling the affected tree, but will reduce some of them to bare-looking trunks around a couple of metres in height.

The upshot of the works programme will be a very different look to parts of Castle Park, a popular oasis of nature in Bangor that attracts walkers and dog owners on a daily basis.

A council spokeswoman stated that the work has been scheduled after an ‘industry standard’ inspection report, and reinforced that a post announcing it was placed on the ‘Tree Maintenance Works’ subsection of the council’s website on August 24.

She also pointed out that the council is currently working through a scheme that should see it plant 160,000 trees across the entirety of Ards and North Down by 2032.

“The council undertakes to replace trees in numbers in excess of those that need to be felled and has an annual tree-planting programme,” said the spokeswoman.

“Between January and March of this year, approximately 15,000 trees were planted throughout the borough.”