Review of Selkirk’s mature trees raises question about value of tree protection orders

The chestnut tree outside the council buildings, across from the Mungo Park statue in Selkirk's High Street.
The chestnut tree outside the council buildings, across from the Mungo Park statue in Selkirk's High Street.

The value of placing preservation orders on mature trees was called into question during Monday evening’s meeting of Selkirk Community Council.

Community councillor Alisdaire Lockhart had been seeking to protect several of the town’s most iconic and loved trees, so had made up a list of those which he felt should be given tree preservation orders (TPOs).

The beech tree to the front of the Hermitage in the High Street in Selkirk.

The beech tree to the front of the Hermitage in the High Street in Selkirk.

On his list included the chestnut tree in front of the council offices, next to the Mungo Park statue in the High Street; the five mature trees on the Green and the avenue of oaks on both sides of the road behind the Philiphaugh rugby ground.

Revealing his list to the committee, he said: “I understand that trees on church grounds or in cemeteries are unlikely to be cut down, but there are others I think should be protected.

“For instance, the large beech tree in the front of the old Southern Reporter office ... because it can only be a matter of time before someone wants to build on that site.”

Councillor Gordon Edgar was able to alleviate Mr Lockhart’s concerns to a certain degree.

The avenue of trees between Selkirk Rugby Club and the triangle field in Selkirk.

The avenue of trees between Selkirk Rugby Club and the triangle field in Selkirk.

He said: “All the trees which are in a conservation area are protected already and don’t need a preservation order.

“Also, those which are on a council-owned property are also protected. We don’t tend to TPO our own trees as they are not under threat and are most likely under assessment through neighbourhood services.”

All the trees on Mr Lockhart’s list were shown to either be in a conservation area or on council land, apart from the five beech trees on the Green.

Mr Lockhart thanked Mr Edgar, saying: “That is good, as it is the outcome we wanted out of this. It does look as though these are indeed protected.”

However, fellow community councillor Jim Stillie questioned the worth of a tree preservation order.

He said: “What really is the point of it? What strength has a protection order carry?

“Where I live in Fairfield, two protected trees were cut down a few years ago and nothing happened.”

Mr Edgar said: “The individual with the saw in hand could be fined, as could the person who asked him to do it. But, of course, once a tree is cut down, you can’t replace it.

“A tree with a protection order does come under consideration during any planning application on the land.”

Mr Edgar also cautioned: “A protection order can be rescinded if the tree is found to be not healthy or dangerous.”