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Fighting to stop the Chestnut Avenue chop on Tooting Bec Common
Collecting conkers along Tooting Bec Common’s historic Chestnut Avenue has been a family favourite for generations.
But Wandsworth Council is going ahead with its unpopular plan to cut down the shady 150-year-old tree avenue in order to replant new young lime trees. Unless they change their mind, the tree avenue will be felled in October or November this year. We’ll then have a year of a tree-less avenue as the stumps are ground out before the new young trees are planted. Then we’ll wait decades as the trees grow before we have a new avenue.
The Save Chestnut Avenue campaign is a group of local residents who got together to “Stop the Chop”, as most local residents do not want the avenue to be chopped down. We think the right answer for Chestnut Avenue is to carry on doing what the council and its predecessors have been doing on this avenue and others on the commons for decades: proper maintenance of trees to ensure they are safe, and one-by-one replacement of the chestnuts as they die or become dangerous too dangerous.
The controversial plan has angered local residents, more than 4,700 of whom have signed a petition against felling the more than 77 trees. They say £46,000 provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for the tree replacement – part of a broader Tooting Common Heritage Project – should instead be used to fund the maintenance and long-term replacement of the existing avenue. This would mean interplanting of new trees on the existing avenue, to fill in existing gaps and removing trees as they die, without taking down the mature trees that still have decades of life and are recovering from bleeding canker.
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“Chestnut Avenue is where generations of children have learned to ride bikes, where families share shady benches in the summer and where all the local children come to gather bags of conkers in the autumn,” said Laurie Goering, a Furzedown resident and one of those campaigning to protect the trees.
“To cut mature trees unnecessarily makes no sense, particularly when tree experts say they present no safety threat if maintained properly,” she said. “And with pollution becoming worse in London, protecting old trees that absorb pollution and keep our air clean should be a priority.”
Many horse chestnuts across London – including those on Chestnut Avenue – suffer from bleeding canker, a tree disease. But Jeremy Barrell, a leading independent UK tree expert, says the mature chestnuts on Chestnut Avenue are successfully recovering from the blight and could live for decades longer. The Forestry Commission also says that “Removing affected trees can be unnecessary. Significant numbers of trees do recover”, supporting our argument that is unnecessary to chop all the trees down.
If the trees are cut down, then the plan to replant the avenue with one species of lime trees (to maintain a traditional “avenue”) is unsustainable in an era of possible climate change and unpredictable future disease/pest threats. Instead, we think an avenue made up of 5-6 species is a better idea.
We're going to soon be out on Tooting Common handing out #StopTheChop badges and collecting stories from people who love Chestnut Avenue and do not want it chopped down.
And of course there are more than three times as many people just in SW16 and SW17 post codes that have signed a petition objecting to the trees being removed than the total number of people who filled out the formal consultation for or against the trees being removed
You contact the campaign here:
You can find out more about bleeding canker on the Forestry Commission website here: https://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/bleedingcanker