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Skerries protesters attempt to stop felling of mature trees

Locals on ‘chain saw patrol’ after Norwegian maples and London planes cut down

Skerries locals have devised a rota to protect their trees from Fingal County Council.

Residents of Skerries, north Co Dublin are maintaining a rota of protestors, who are on “chain saw patrol” and attempting to prevent the felling of mature trees lining streets in their town.

One local businessman, upset by what he claims is the unnecessary destruction of trees outside his house, reversed his van up to a tree marked for cutting down, chained it to his vehicle, and attempted to put wire around other trees to prevent them being cut down.

Shane Holland, a local sculptor and designer, said a mix of six large Norwegian maples and London plane trees were cut down last Tuesday. He had been alerted by a seven-day notice from Fingal County Council, which had attempted to justify taking down a tree outside his home on Church Street “because it’s heaving a pavement”.

He had attempted to secure a tree preservation order from the Department of Agriculture, but it had simply referred him back to the local authority.

When Mr Holland moved his van into position, gardaí and a council engineer arrived at the scene. “It was my only option to save the tree. The engineer was talking about concrete, I was talking about trees. There is a way to do it, to accommodate trees that are not trip hazards on the streetscape.”

Skerries resident Shane Holland who is protesting against the felling of trees in the town.

As an attempt was made to cordon off another tree and protestors ran to it to wrap themselves around the tree. “We had to hug the trees to keep them alive. The town is up in arms about it now,” he added. As a consequence, a rota was in place since 6.30 am on Thursday and people were positioning themselves beside trees.

Trees that are older than 10 years must have a tree-felling licence from the department under forestry legislation, but the council did not have to abide by that requirement, Mr Holland said.

Speaking early Thursday, he added: “We had a lot of volunteers out this morning. We had a vigil all day.”

Fingal County Council said the “essential tree removal works” followed work on Strand Street in 2018 and are part of a broader scheme that will see works completed in Lusk, Rush and Balbriggan,” a spokesman said.

“It is absolutely essential to remove these trees at this time as they have caused irreversible damage to adjacent public footpaths. This has resulted in serious trip hazards and, in some cases, legal actions against the Council,” he said.

Affected paths have been repaired on numerous occasions “but we are now unable to repair these paths any further without the removal of the adjacent street trees. All other options have been explored”.

It confirmed 12 trees are to be removed from Church Street. “Where it is possible a more suitable tree species will be planted once footpath works are complete. If space does not allow planting in the exact location, a nearby suitable location will be chosen,” he added.

Main factor

“The decision to remove these trees was not taken lightly. Public safety is paramount and was the main factor in deciding to remove these street trees.”

Last year, nine trees were removed on Strand Street and seven replacement trees were planted on site in suitable locations. In addition, to further compensate for the loss of street trees, “Fingal County Council carries out open space planting in the area or on adjacent streets and last year 20 trees were planted on the old section of the Barnageeragh Link Road in Skerries”.

“In accordance with Part 4, Section 19 of the Forestry Act 2014, Fingal County Council is not required to obtain a licence,” he said.

Meanwhile “large scale destruction” of mature trees close to the road through the Scalp Valley approaching Enniskerry Village in Co Wicklow occurred last Saturday, according to locals.

“Where once was a tunnel of trees, now lies a line of stumps as far as the eye can see,” said Aideen Keogh who observed, photographed and videoed the destruction.

When asked about the circumstances of the tree felling, a spokeswoman for Wicklow County Council said it occurred in Bray Municipal Area but licensing was a matter for the forestry section at the Department of Agriculture.

In a statement, the department said it had received reports of tree felling that had taken place along the road in the Scalp Valley.

“A forestry inspector will visit the site as soon as possible, to ascertain the extent of the felling that has taken place. It should be noted Section 19(m)(i) of the Forestry Act, 2014, provides for the felling of trees within 10 metres of a public road, which in the opinion of the owner, are dangerous to road users.”