Trees are a part of Town’s heritage
I HAVE taken great interest in the debate over the possible removal of the large tree in Trinity Square, reading carefully the comments attributed to the St Peter Port constable and the representative of Guernsey Trees for Life, and have visited the site. I think I have something to add, having at one time sat on the Tree Council and the Urban Tree Planting Committee formed by the States to kick-start tree planting in Guernsey after the campaign to control Dutch elm disease was abandoned. For a number of years I was also chairman of what was then Guernsey’s Men of the Trees organisation.
While in no way do I wish this to appear to be a personal attack on parish officials doing their work in ways they think are in ratepayers’ interests, I have to say serious alarm bells are ringing in my head when I hear some of Dennis Le Moignan’s remarks. I am not a road engineer but there seems to be no evident serious structural damage to the road apart from some raising of the asphalt alongside the pavement where no vehicle will travel. I don’t understand the perceived threat to the pump. Are those pesky roots going to come up and strangle it or is he worried about branches falling off a healthy tree which is regularly pruned anyway? Any decaying wood should be identified and removed at that time. The granite setts are being lifted in close proximity to the tree, but I would suggest these may not have been laid to the necessary standard for next to living trees and surely this can be resolved without the complete removal of the tree. The drain lid he mentioned must have been covered by the tree many years ago, so why is that suddenly a problem now?
Why should we be caring about one tree? Well I think this highlights a pervading attitude that landscape and trees are somehow not as important or valued as roads, pavements and granite setts, and if there is a cheaper, easier way of looking after those and the tree is in the way, let’s remove it.
Mr Le Moignan seems to criticise our ancestors who planted trees with ‘no thought about the problems they would cause’ in the future. I think we should be applauding and thanking them for presenting us with a tree heritage that sets St Peter Port apart from most seaside towns. In the Press article it is reported, in remarks presumably made by him, that all the trees are damaging the road so I suspect this is only the beginning. Could he explain why a parish pump (is it ever used?) is considered worthy of protection while a tree that is more than 100 years old is not? I’m not, of course, overlooking the historical importance of the pump, but I’d be certain that if it was moved elsewhere in the square few would complain, whereas a large tree would certainly be missed. Mr Le Moignan says he loves trees, and maybe in his own mind he does, but I suspect he approves of problem-free trees that only grow three metres high and require minimal maintenance. Of course, we can’t ignore the cost of tree husbandry.
Trees of stature have a price tag attached to them I know, but they are part of our heritage and the beauty of the island, and only trees of stature will have the visual impact that is required to soften and enhance the urban landscape.
I must say I am worried by Mr Le Moignan’s track record in this respect; in particular the total removal of all the significant trees in Upland Road in one hit. I am sure there were apparent good reasons to do this – I read the reports and bit my tongue. However, the result in reality is that anyone going up Upland Road is now presented with a panorama of parked cars and gravestones. And given what has been planted to replace them (they appear to be little more than indigenous hedging plants), generations to come will have this view. Perhaps there are future plans to plant substantial trees – there certainly is enough room – and I will be happy to applaud. But I fear those sort of trees are considered to be too much trouble and too much expense. I wonder if future generations will make comments similar to Mr Le Moignan’s, except they will say ‘they didn’t plant with any thought for the future, in fact they didn’t plant anything that lasts and contributes to our island’.