Warning after Belsize Park sycamore tree crashes into house

Aspern Grove sycamore tree that fell this week

Expert says council is ‘sleepwalking’ into environmental disaster after sycamore collapses

Published: September 15, 2011

AN environmental expert has warned that Camden is “sleepwalking” into a potentially catastrophic period of “mature tree loss” after a giant sycamore suddenly uprooted itself and crashed into a house.

The 40-footer broke through its concrete base in Aspern Grove, Belsize Park, causing tile and guttering damage to a three-storey house at around 2pm on Monday.

Neville Fay, who is chairman of the Ancient Tree Forum and director of the country’s leading tree consultancy firm, Treework Environment Practice, said: “We are really endangering our native-grown trees by bringing in diseases which our trees never evolved to cope with.

“One of the biggest pressures on our trees is us – through things like pollution and trenching of roots. We are not ­managing our urban environment with enough water for trees.

“These pressures are real. Quite frankly, I think the government is sleep-walking.”

The Aspern Grove sycamore was the second massive tree to fall in NW3 inside a week after a 50-footer crashed into an historic home in Church Row, Hampstead, last Tuesday.

Mr Fay said it was important to get some perspective and that, statistically, more people were killed putting on their own trousers than being hit by falling trees.

He added that inspectors working in Camden were among the best in the country but that they were being hit by the funding cuts.

“We are seeing drought stress, and that’s when trees cannot cope with the diseases that are around,” said Mr Fay.

“Our trees are under pressure from all manner of things.

“We depend on trees for our very existence. Our cities depend on trees to be liveable places. To lose our mature trees is to commit suicide.”

A spokeswoman for Camden Council, which is responsible for monitoring trees in the borough, blamed “severe weather” for the Aspern Grove tree collapse, adding that it had been recently inspected.

“We inspect all our trees regularly as part of a thorough and robust inspection and maintenance programme,” the spokeswoman added.

In May, the Town Hall warned of a “freak accident of nature” after a recently inspected 40ft Indian Horse Chestnut cracked and hit a woman on the head.

It was at least the third to collapse in Camden within a week after recent incidents in West End Lane, Highgate and King’s Cross. And a rotten 60ft False Acacia Tree almost killed plumber Gabriel Moreti when it fell in high winds and crashed on his head in Primrose Hill Gardens, Belsize, in January.

An even bigger tree fell near primary schools from the gardens of the former headquarters of the Jesuits in Britain in Nutley Terrace, Hampstead, in October.

And in May last year, a 40-footer crashed into a moving van in Lyndhurst Road, injuring the driver before a second fell a week later outside The Hill school in Parkhill Road, Belsize Park. A taxi driver suffered severe head injuries when a 70ft West Hampstead poplar crushed him in his cab in May 2009.


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