Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

It’s 100 years old and destined to be axed, but now Belfast residents have vowed to save majestic beech tree

Angry residents have launched a protest after one of Belfast’s oldest trees was earmarked for destruction.

The majestic beech tree is 100 years old and is a much-loved feature on Glastonbury Avenue, just off the Antrim Road.

It was due to be pulled down on Thursday to improve a footpath on the quiet residential street.

The elderly tree's roots can be seen protruding from the pavement, and it is considered a health and safety hazard by the Roads Service. Belfast City Council has been asked to pull it down.

But the beech is considered a landmark in the area, so angry residents moved in to protect it when workers arrived.

A small group of protesters stood at the foot of the giant tree and begged Roads Service officials to call off the felling.

They succeeded in convincing them to postpone chopping it down — but Roads Service has vowed it will be removed in a week’s time.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “We want them to call the dogs off until we have time to think about it. This is a healthy tree and one of the oldest in Belfast, it's a landmark for everyone around. Losing it would be awful, it's something very special.”

She added: “The rest of the road is patchy all over, it's not just this part with the roots.

“They (Roads Service) seem to have the attitude that it's a fait accompli. We got a letter through the door saying it was happening next week and that was that, this came out of nowhere.

“We live in a democracy, and getting a letter like that is like living in a dictatorship. It's our road and our tree. If it was threatening to fall on someone's house or something like that it would be totally different, but it's not.”

One of the other protesters has lived on Glastonbury Avenue for 50 years.

“My family played around that tree. I have never fallen on the footpath here, it's not a danger to residents and the path has been the same for years,” she said.

“I fell once on a path on the Antrim Road and nothing is being done about that. I have never fallen here. There is really no argument.”

The woman, who is in her 70s and also asked not to be named, said: Around 40 years ago a resident complained about the tree and somebody came out to knock it down, but it was all called off because they said it was one of the oldest in Belfast. So if they left it standing then, why would they knock it down now?”

Some residents heckled a Roads Service engineer, saying the footpath has been in the same state for the past 30 years. One suggested the road be turned into a one-way street so the footpath could be widened and the tree left intact.

Speaking at the scene, a Roads Service representative said: “The footpath is unsafe. I have to look at it from the perspective of damage, the roots are going down and interfering with and digging through a property next door.

“Our responsibility is to pedestrians. Our responsibility is for the welfare of everyone and we have taken everything into consideration. We need to take appropriate action. We can grant a one week delay but the tree will come down.”

A Roads Service spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: “This tree needs to be removed as it is damaging the footpath and has become a health and safety issue for pedestrians and especially for people with disabilities. Roads Service has consulted with the City Council and we issued a letter to residents informing them of our decision to remove the tree.”

A Belfast City Council spokesman said: “We are carrying out the work on this 100-year-old beech tree at the request of the Roads Service.”

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