A mechanical digger was used to excavate a three-foot deep trench close to the trunk and right under the canopy of an oak tree that is a familiar landmark on the brow of the hill at the junction of The Meadway and Potters Road, New Barnet.
Simon Cohen, a campaigner for the Woodland Trust, temporarily halted the contractors while they were working (21.10.2017) but their company headquarters insisted that a planning application had been submitted and approved.
“I have to acknowledge that the paper work was in order, and the location had been approved, but how can Barnet Council, which is supposed to have a tree protection officer, give permission for a trench and two concrete bases to be installed directly under a tree’s canopy where the tree roots are most prolific.
“Using a mechanical digger in such circumstances, within a root protection zone, is clearly out of order.
“If trenches do have to be dug for unavoidable reasons, they should be dug by hand, to cause least root disturbance, and in this case these junction boxes could easily have been sited away from the tree,” said Mr Cohen.
Judy Ross, who lives opposite the tree, was first on the scene when she saw the mechanical digger from the John Henry Group digging the trench for Virgin Media which has been working in the area for some months installing a fast broadband network.
“I was outraged. It’s disgusting that the roots to such an important tree should be hacked through like this.
There was no earthy necessity to put the two broadband junction boxes to close to the tree.”
When Mr Cohen arrived, he asked the contractors’ foreman to stop the work while checks were made to see if the installation had been approved.
It’s so disappointing to think that Barnet Council can be so unthinking and uncaring.
“People love their street trees and we are so fortunate in Barnet, but as we know from other London boroughs, and especially in Sheffield where 6,000 street trees are being felled, local council are cutting them down because it saves money.”
Mr Cohen hopes the 250-year-old oak will survive. “It is still a very healthy tree, but the loss of so many roots will cause it distress, and using a mechanical digger, compacts the soil, cutting down the oxygen in the soil.”
A banner will be placed around the tree on Sunday 12 November when the Woodland Trust promotes its “We Love Street Trees” campaign.
“We shall be inviting the locals along for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and we hope that what happened to our oak will be a lesson to Barnet Council and increase public awareness of the need to safeguard our street trees.
“Damage to them can so easily be avoided, and if we raise people’s interest in these street trees, I am sure we can put pressure on the local council.
“We have been told by St Mark’s Church, which is next to the tree, that the tree is covered by a tree protection order, but that seems to have made little difference to Barnet Council in approving work like this.”