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Petition accusing councils of cutting down too many trees reaches over 5,500 signatures

The petition wants councils to stop cutting down trees in public spaces without informing the public.

File photo of trees in Fairview Park.
File photo of trees in Fairview Park.
Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

A PETITION ACCUSING councils of cutting down too many trees across the country has
reached over 5,500 signatures.

The petition wants councils to stop cutting down trees in public spaces without informing the public. It is supported by senators Frances Black and Grace O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan discussed tree felling in the Seanad on 27 February.

“A huge number of incidents of tree felling have been reported to myself and the Green Party over the past two weeks,” said O’Sullivan told TheJournal.ie.

“The cutting done is often excessive, and that mature trees that are integral to communities and nature are being cut down, often in the face of public opposition.

“I think that all can agree that Ireland as a country needs more trees, not less,” she said.

The Forestry Act 2014 states that it is an offence for any person to uproot or cut down a tree unless the owner has obtained permission in the form of a felling licence from the Forest Service.

Deirdre O’Leary started the petition after seeing posts online about trees being cut down. She said a friend came to her after witnessing a tree being felled in Co Clare.

“He said the people cutting down the tree couldn’t tell him the difference between an oak and a sycamore, which really tells you something,” O’Leary said

“Every second person I talk to about this comes back to me with their own incidents.

“What we need is joined up thinking, to get the issue out there and to raise awareness,” she said.

Tree Strategy

Dublin City Council issued a ‘Tree Strategy’ in 2016 that outlines the city’s plan for public trees.

The plan states that there are an estimated 60,000 street trees and 40,000 trees in public parks in Dublin City.

Galway City Council has cut down 154 trees since January 2018 and warnings were given to local residents in the case of 115 trees.

County and City Councils contacted by TheJournal.ie cited public safety, structural damage and storm damage as the reasons for trees being felled.

A spokesperson for the Parks and Landscape Services Division at Dublin City Council said there has been no increase in queries or complaints in relation to tree felling in the past year.

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“In the period 15 Jan to 1 March 2019, Dublin City Council received 132 tree maintenance requests of which three related to trees which had collapsed,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Kildare County Council said the council carries out a programme of tree works and tree planting each year to replace removed trees.

The spokesperson laid a number of reasons for felling trees, including where they may be causing structural damage, are diseased, or are blocking public lighting, or in cases where they are damaged or where the public asks for them to be removed. 

“In addition the council also carries out an annual programme of tree planting which is aimed at replanting in areas where trees were removed or would benefit from additional trees,” the spokesperson said.  

“Most tree removals are as a result of requests from TDs, councillors, residents, residents’ associations, etc and to date we have not been informing residents.

However, the programme of works forwarded to councillors before the works starts for this year, will also be used to inform the public of any proposed trees works through the Public Participation Network.

Maureen O’Sullivan, founder of Tree Preservation Ireland and Save Ireland’s Trees, said Councils across the country were “butchering” trees.

“They should be doing everything in their power to conserve and plant more instead of chopping and destroying more trees,” said O’Sullivan.

She said that the health and climate benefits of trees should be considered by councils before cutting them down.

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