Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Furious residents confront Brent Council officials over tree removal and win some concessions




Chris Whtye, representing Brent Council, confessed that tonight's meeting outside Furness Primary School in Furness Road about the removal of 11 trees, was much bigger than he had anticipated. He was given the unenviable task of both giving the Council's case and responding to questions. Brent Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt and Lead member for the Environment, stayed silent for the first part of the meeting, leaving Officers to take the brunt of the crowd's passionate criticism of Council policy on removing trees and asphalting of walkways.

Eleven trees were to be removed from Furness Road and Chris told the crowd that five would now stay after review, three would be removed because they were diseased, dead or dying and three would be removed because contractors could find no way of laying the new footway around them.

This did not satisfy the protesters and nor did a further concession that the trees would be replaced by semi-mature plantings rather than saplings. They pointed out the widely different contribution to reducing air pollution made by different sizes of trees and the carbon cost of fossil fuel based asphalt compared with replacing cracked paving. Officers pointed out their duty to protect pedestrians from tripping hazards and falling branches.

The Council were reminded of the battle over asphalting in Chandos Road and the removing of very old specimen trees in Old Paddington Cemetery.


 Cllr Butt, Leader of Brent Council, responds

The meeting did not so much conclude as tail off in a series of arguments with Muhammed Butt furious in certain exchanges. However a cool intervention by Cllr Jumbo Chan won a promise of a properly chaired meeting of residents and the Council in early-January.

It was hard to be absolutely certain in the chaos but I believe the Council undertook to carry out no work in Furness Road until the meeting has taken place.


6 comments:

Pete Firmin said...

As so often, leading Councillors leave officers to defend their policies. Not acceptable.

MartinR said...

Seems like a reasonable report of the meeting. Hopefully they won't start felling before the meeting. Other trees elsewhere in Brent are also under threat.

Jeanette said...

Save the trees the Furness children do not need to breathe in pollution all the time no wonder children get ill cars constantly driving past the school this is all unacceptable

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing. I think it is quite clear the Council don't know what they are doing.

Martin Francis said...

From an email received about last night's meeting:

It was great meeting many of you last night, and it was a wonderful thing to see so many people who really do care about their borough, and who are committed to holding Brent Council to account.

I was rather surprised to see the Leader of the Council attending, which I appreciated, and I think he must of being been rather taken aback by the anger and outrage this policy continues to generate everywhere it is proposed.

I’m glad that sufficient pressure seems to have resulted in him attending and hopefully him understanding that this matter is not going away, and that carrying on with “business as usual” is not a credible or acceptable response.

The other Brent Council officers likewise, seemed rather stunned by the proceedings, which as many people said, should really have been taking place in a meeting room and properly chaired - so that all parties could properly make their case in a clear and concise manner.

From what I could see, all of these officers failed to provide clarity on both the issue of the tree stock in Brent, nor the costings/environmental issues surrounding the tarmac policy, and the fear that very large sums of our money is being spent on unnecessary works with a wholly unacceptable cost to the environment.

Little wonder their stock answer to the request for new trees from residents is “there is no money” – when colossal sums have instead been spent destroying intact flagstones and pavers, and purchasing and then poring a crude oil distillate over peoples streets.

I noted that the Climate Emergency was not mentioned by any of the officers, the reason I would guess is because their policy Tarmac/Tree removal programme has not been meaningfully assessed, altered or reflected by Brent’s Climate Emergency declaration earlier this year. If there is evidence of this declaration being given the priority it deserves, I could not see it. Continued below

Martin Francis said...

Continued/

Considering these issues are driven by largely environmental concerns, it was rather telling that Cllr Krupa Sheth remained pretty much silent.
At the very least, I would of expected her as Lead Member for Environment, to explain what the declaration of the Climate Emergency meant in relation to the issues raised at the meeting.

The one outstanding positive representative of Brent Council at the meeting in my opinion was Cllr Jumbo Chan, who carefully and respectfully engaged with all the residents and was looking to move this protest to a more organised and structured meeting before any proposed work is started. I look forward to receiving a date and location for this meeting.

For me, one of the main issues is Brent Council again making the false equivalence between a mature tree and the level of benefits it provides with a replacement sapling. Merely replacing one mature tree with a single sapling represents harm to the environment – not a maintenance of the status quo and not an improvement.

An ongoing improvement program is demanded by the Climate Emergency and the officers of Brent Council need to stop treating residents as uninformed imbeciles - that can be fobbed of with lazy and blatant misrepresentations. If the officers of Brent cannot see/understand or accept this fundamental aspect, which surely even a child can comprehend, they have no business holding their positions in a local authority.

This meeting for brings up two main issues:

The maintenance and future growth of Brent’s tree stock which is a precious community asset that needs to be rapidly expanded.

The highly wasteful, environmentally destructive and irresponsible replacement of intact flagstone pavements and their replacement with tarmac.

I feel greatly heartened by meeting so many engaged and intelligent people, who are not asking or expecting unreasonable things, but the desire for their local authority to be properly held to account, for their policies to be as economically efficient as possible, and for policies that properly reflect the Climate Emergency we are all facing.

I’m very much looking forward to continue to work with you all in solidarity, so we can effect the much needed changes for the borough, and hopefully all be able to feel very proud of our part of this great city.