Hackney council has been reported to the Local Government Ombudsman for alleged failures in its management of publicly owned trees in the borough.
Russell Miller, of the Tree Musketeers, the leading volunteer arboriculture group, sent a long and detailed list of complaints about what he termed the council’s “anti-tree policy”.
He said: “It is a very grim time for trees in Hackney.
“For years we have fought to try to educate officers and councillors about the damage being done to trees.
“Unfortunately the truth is they do not care. They have no interest in trees. Only last week a plane tree awaiting a tree protection order for more than four years was felled in Stamford Hill in the north of the borough.”
Loving Dalston has previously reported on staff cuts in the parks department. Miller, a trained arboriculturist, adds: “LBH is to cut all its five tree staff in parks, to be replaced by one unknown officer.
The loss of the tree gang will undermine not just Hackney’s trees but also the ability of the Tree Musketeers and park user groups to deliver events and park improvements.
“The parks restructure is purposely designed to shed all existing tree staff.”
Miller criticised the council’s attitude to community participation. “Anyone critical of the council is ostracised and deemed hostile.
“Although never stated publicly, privately the [Labour] administration is clear it will not engage with critics.
“The approach is directed from the office of the Mayor [Jules Pipe] and it has created an environment in which it has become unacceptable to point out problems. This entrenched, almost paranoid, defensiveness renders the administration extremely inflexible and deaf to crucial dialogue and complaints that should promote positive change.
“This is a key part of the ongoing failure to manage trees.”
A council official said: “Councillor Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for community services, is always happy to listen to residents and their concerns.
“He has agreed to meet with Mr Miller, who is also a member of Hackney Parks Forum and the biodiversity forum, and often raises tree issues at those meetings.”
Tree Musketeers’ programme, early 2011 * Clissold Park guided tree walks. Meet by the toilets (no sniggering at back of class): Sat 12 Mar 2011 12.15-2pm; Sat 30 Mar 2011 2pm. * Woodland management in Wick woodland. Meet at the tree nursery or find Tree Musketeers in woodland on south side of Homerton Road. All on a Sun at 10.30am: 27 Feb 2011; 13 Mar 2011; 27 Mar 2011. Everyone welcome. Wear suitable clothes and stout footwear. Further details 020 8985 5008; 07758 326530 if you can’t find a Musketeer on the day.