Dangerous trees pose a 'threat to lives', worried residents in Galashiels fear

Fearful residents in a Galashiels street say ancient trees pose a threat to their lives.

By Paul Kelly
Monday, 13th December 2021, 11:29 am
Beverley Townley and neighbour John Law. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Beverley Townley and neighbour John Law. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Several oak trees, some dating back to the era of Sir Walter Scott, crashed on railings, walls and fences in Coopersknowe Crescent during Storm Arwen late last month.

One tree narrowly missed hitting a bedroom at Frank and Beverley Townley’s home.

It’s a situation the couple and their neighbour John Law are demanding is rectified as a matter of urgency.

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Danger trees. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

The owner of the land has agreed to fell the trees and replant new trees a safe distance away from the properties.

But Scottish Borders Council has a Tree Protection Order in place, making the process more complicated.

Mrs Townley fears more strong winds could see further oaks fall – and believes the threat of someone being injured or killed is real.

She said: “Some of them are in a position whereby they have fallen and are now leaning on other trees and are in imminent danger of falling again.

Trees pose a 'risk to life'.

"The trees have come down between the houses and missed the corner of our house by about a foot. There was structural damage to the corner of John’s garage roof, the fences, the walls, the railings.

“The tops of the trees have blown over our property, damaging the roof. People keep saying the branches have blown off these trees but the top of one of the trees has blown over our house, hitting our chimney and taking some tiles off our roof and landed in our front garden. The size of top of the tree that has done that is so heavy that we can’t move it off the drive now.

"This has been going on for so long. The landowner was very happy to work this out. We had a site meeting and he was in total agreement of clearing these dangerous trees because he knows the responsibility lies with him.

"But the council put a Tree Protection Order on after he agreed to do that, because they said it forms the boundary of Galashiels. But clearly it is just dangerous now and it’s life-threatening and all we want to do is get them to remove it. He’s being prevented from doing what he wants to do, in the interests of people’s safety, by the council.

Danger on pathway.

"We have been in dialogue with the council since 2018 and we feel they have been ignoring the seriousness of the issue.

"Storm Arwen caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage and somebody could have been killed.

“The path that runs along the back of our house is a core path that is owned and maintained by the council but the trees are owned by a landowner.

"We need the trees felled because they are in such a dangerous state at the moment. This is a path that is used every day by dog walkers and people walking to the recycling centre to work.

"These are trees that are 100 feet tall and have come crashing through my neighbour’s wall and fence and railings, causing thousands of pounds of damage.

"They’ve missed the corner of my daughter’s bedroom by about a yard. The damage is substantial. We’re not talking about a few branches here.”

The residents have the support of Galashiels and district councillor Euan Jardine, who paid a site visit to the area last week.

He said: "I believe that residents safety and security should be the main priority. Therefore, I have reached out to the council and advised of the urgency to resolve this matter positively and constructively.

"I am also encouraged by the landowner's intention to replant more trees further up the valley in a safer area which would prevent a repeat of the issues in the future."

A spokesperson for the council said: “Anyone thinking about works to a protected tree or trees or to find out whether a tree is protected, please contact the Tree Officer for professional advice, approval and details of local contractors. A formal application process is in place for works to trees.

“Responsibility for the management of trees, including protected trees, always rests with the owner of the land upon which they stand.”