‘PICKIE TREE FELLING ‘JUSTIFIED’

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    A GREEN Party councillor has moved to reassure the public after work began on removing 15 large trees in the Pickie area of Bangor. Councillor Stephen Dunlop said rather than ‘environmental vandalism’ the work at Pickie was justified and ‘responsible management’ by Ards and North Down Council. There was considerable concern and anger on social media earlier this week when the council announced it would be carrying out work to the trees in the area. Fifteen trees have been earmarked for felling following a recent survey, and a further six will be pruned. However, Mr Dunlop, said he was on site during the week and believes the trees had to be removed. The Bangor Central councillor said he saw that ‘two substantial trees’ had been felled, stating they had been removed by the council with good reason. And reacting to confirmation that a total of 15 trees were being removed as part of an operation, Mr Dunlop said he was confident that the operation to remove any trees was part of the council’s commitment to ‘responsible management’ of local tree stock. Ratepayers had reacted angrily to the council’s plan to commence ‘works’ on the trees, commencing on Monday, November 7, after it posted a notification on Facebook to alert its followers. The local authority said the move was part of its ‘proactive approach in the management of its tree stock’. The social media post stated: “The works are for the purposes of good practice management, disease control and public safety; all trees are subject to an environmental assessment prior to being worked on which will prevent work happening if birds are nesting or bats are present.” In a statement to the Spectator, the council said from a total of 108 trees surveyed, the report identified 15 trees for removal and six for maintenance works such as pruning. “The works are for the purposes of good practice management, disease control and public safety,” said the statement. “It is Council policy to carry out tree inspection surveys for each of our sites to assess the risk of significant harm from a tree or branch fall. “In addition, all trees are subject to an environmental assessment prior to being worked on which will prevent issues around birds nesting and other wildlife issues. This tree survey is carried out by a trained arborist and provides a detailed report about the condition of the trees.” Mr Dunlop said he had visited the site to ‘to ensure that whatever is being taken down has to be dead or dying or a safety hazard’. “I’m confident that having been on site that the trees that have been removed are dying and it was appropriate for them to be removed,” he said. He said that having spoken with council officers and ‘understanding the process they have gone through whereby they have engaged with environmental consultants’ Mr Dunlop confirmed that he would “accept their word for it” “The council has no aspirations whatsoever to destroy the environment,” he said, describing the authority as ‘responsible’ custodians of the locale. He said that as a member of the Green Party ‘it does hurt’ when any tree is removed, but he maintained: “We have to be pragmatic. Nature isn’t perfect and sometimes nature has to be helped.” He continued: “Be assured that as a member of the Green party and as a resident of Bangor I would have been very angry if it was environmental vandalism but it’s responsible management.” Facebook followers of the council had aired their disquiet at the prospect of the removal of any trees. One user said: “If it’s any of those big, iconic pine trees I want to see some serious paperwork justifying any felling.” Another follower pointed out that dead and dying trees were good habitats for nesting woodpeckers and should be left in situ to accommodate this type of bird.