Dead wood

We received this plea for help from reader Nicola, who would like some advice from other readers:

"I live in Wickham Gardens, we share half of the square with a very well kept estate including buildings Elm Tree House, Lime Tree House and Holly Tree House. To the back of our property have been a number of very mature and wild Sycamore trees that provide both the estate and ourselves a welcome bit of green when looking through our windows.

"However, the contractors managing the estate, Pinnacle have decided that mature trees on the estate aren't a good idea and have (and are currently in the process) of felling 10 + of these mature trees. So, we have lost the green and gained more noise from Brockley road and a view into each others kitchens and bedrooms, joy!

"I have spoken to Lewisham planning dept who tell us that there is no requirement for planning permission to fell trees outside of the conservation area. I just find this outrageous that the Council can happily fell mature trees (yes Sycamores but trees none the less, we also lost 2 willows in the process as they were in the same area being cleared).

"I would be interested in posting this story to your blog to highlight the ease in which our environment in SE4 can be altered and not always for the best. I have spoken to Darren Johnson our Brockley Ward Councillor and he is very supportive of our outcry, however they trees are now gone and even replanting will not replace them sufficiently.

"So, rant over. I really just want to publicise what's happened and find out if anyone else has had a similar experience in SE4, are they able to provide info on our rights etc."


Monkeyboy said...

Did they say why they were removing the trees? You may not need Planning permission but in the rail industry (where I work for my sins and the final salary pension) we have to prepare Health, Safety & ENVIRONMENTAL plans. Basically we would have to justify why felling the trees was the only practical solution to a problem - I assume there was a perceived problem? As always with these contracts, they're only as good as the people preparing or administering them.

Anonymous said...

you may want to find out if you are indeed in a conservation area. These 'protected' areas are sometimes unknown until you actually ask the question

Fabhat said...

It looks like half the square is conservation, and the tree felling part is not...What a shame this wasn't done more thoughtfully.

Anonymous said...

It's such a shame, but I'd hazard a guess that as with some much of the tree felling in this area, the root cause (excuse the pun) is the possibility of subsidence.

Brockley is an area prone to this, and neither the council, management companies or indeed individuals want to be found culpable. Often it can only take a recommendation from a structural engineer or the like that a given tree or tress should ideally be removed, and this is exactly what then happens. The character of the area can be changed in a matter of hours.

Anonymous said...

A barely related comment to this thread but sycamore saplings are a right pain.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth are mature trees not a good idea on an estate -- how does it differ from the rest of Brockley, or London or any other city? Totally bonkers. If they were causing specific problems (eg roots interfering with drains) then OK, but this seems a bit over the top.

Anonymous said...

This type of action is going to be even more frequent in the future. Pinnacle is the consortium who have taken over the management of Brockley's social housing and leaseholders. We've already seen how they have failed to consult with residents over the recent Decent Homes iniative - resulting in bills of £20,000 or more.

Pinnacle will, most likely, chop down any tree that could cause a future insurance claim or 'may' have a perceived effect on the structure of the building. I would complain to your community liasion officer for your block in Pinnacle (didn't know you had one? They've been keeping it quiet) about the lack of consultation. I would also consider posting a question to conuncilon the website, or raising a stage one complaint to council. This may ensure they consult residents in future.

The Cat Man said...

tj, thats very interesting.

The practice does not stop with Pinnacle though. Alot of major insurance companies are insisting on the removal of large trees, even in a neighbours property, to protect a house etc.. from subsidence.

Just another example of this crazy world we live in!

Anonymous said...

They wouldn't go to the expense if it wasn't worth doing.

And of course, if the houses did subside in the end then the daily mail headlines would all scream "they knew all along this would happen and they did NOTHING... IS THE WORLD GOING MAD?"

The Cat Man said...

Yes anon, exactly!

It is increasingly the case that insurance companies would even insist on a tree removal prior to taking on a renewal or new policy from a policyholder.

Call it a preventitive measure if you like.

The Cat Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If it's a preventative measure then why is it an example of a crazy world? It serves no advantage to any of the aformentioned companies to insist on or perform this work (other than the tree fellers of course)

Anonymous said...

Nicola, go online to Lewisham Planning. View planning applications online.
This records 'Trees in Conservation Areas' - under Lime Tree house (estate). In other words, the cutting of these trees is subject to a planning application - and is in the Conservation Area.
Finally, insist that they replant mature trees.

Anonymous said...

It's an easy opt out to blame adjacent trees. Whereas anything that affects the levels of moisture in the soil - increasing or decreasing them - can cause movement. Classically, removing a tree, leaving it there, paving over a front garden to create hard-standing for off street parking, the water company repairing leaks, not repairing leaks etc. etc.

It is a great shame that tree removal is usually the first thing an insurance company cries out for and, once the council know there might be a claim, there was a case a few years back now with Westminster that established that they would be legally liable for costs if they knew a risk and took no action, i.e. failed to cut down the tree.

The Cat Man said...


This is exactly my point. The same applies to insurance companies who are opting to max their bottom line.

It really is terrible when nature if removed purely to service the profit returned to a minority of wealthy individuals. I bet they keep their trees.

Anonymous said...

-It is increasingly the case that insurance companies would even insist on a tree removal prior to taking on a renewal or new policy from a policyholder-

Er, hang on. I am not sure who your insurer is Andy but mine never came round the house and counted the trees in my garden nor did they come around and measure the proximity of the trees to the house either. In fact I don’t even remember talking about trees when I renewed my policy and there are several around.

And who is your insurer that they even check next door to see what trees they have?

You are more likely to be made aware of a tree problem by a surveyor if anything when you buy or remortgage your house or using the common sense approach i.e. wow that big tree is only a few metres away, it could be a problem and then getting specialist advice. As Tamsin has already said, subsidence has many causes and one of the biggest causes in London is clay soil expanding when it is wet and contracting when it is dry which is not good considering many victorian houses have quite shallow foundations. I guess this special catman insurer checks the water table too and asks you to top it up to a required level?

The Cat Man said...

@drakefell. Oh please, why be so dis-approving. Next time don't be so naive.

"Such claims – even if spurious – routinely lead to the removal of street and garden trees in cities."

Full article:

Even in the guardian, so most people on here should enjoy it.

patrick1971 said...

My understanding was that all trees in London needed permission to be cut down, even those on private residential property, something about tree protection orders? Memory of this is hazy and it's clearly either not the case or it's easy to get around it.

However, at the Crofton Park local assembly on Monday night (which was, erm, "interesting", to say the least), one of the residents' priorities was getting more trees and saving the ones we had. A woman in the audience at this point got up and said, "Why is there all this fuss about trees? Who wants trees everywhere?" which was quite bizarre. I wonder if she was one of those people who fall in love with buildings, so wanted to see concrete all around her.

Anonymous said...

People do tend to overdo it on the subject of trees, so fair play for her for standing up. It may be uncool not be a greenie in 2008, but it'll soon be 2009 and these things will need to be maintained and lived with...

Anonymous said...

Your link cites one case and the person was told he would not be covered if his neighbour had subsidence due to his tree. Fair enough but even the tree surgeon refused to cut the tree down because it was a waste and posed no risk in his opinion. Did the chap mentioned think to enquire about other insurance providers with less condescending policy restrictions? We don’t know.

Obviously common sense has to prevail and if you have an oak tree I think within 30 metres or something from your house and your neighbours you should have it seen to. It does not always have to be cut down though. Anyway the media love to sensationalise so let’s not make the issue seem bigger than it is and add in bottom lines and insurance bosses keeping their trees whilst ordinary home owners are forced to wield the axe before they get a policy. That is daily mail speak. I do not work in the insurance industry by the way.

This article is also from the Guardian which states that of the last 40 000 tress cut down in the last 5 years in London, only 40% have been a subsidence risk -

That means 24 000 trees were a victim of knee jerk reactions. The trees relating to this thread could be in the same boat. Councils and housing associations can also be liable to damages by the insurer of an adjacent property if they own the tree that has caused the damage. The up shot is that Councils find it is cheaper to remove trees to pre-empt it rather than pay the claims and much cheaper than fighting any liability through the courts, which they rarely win. Unfortunately the judgement of what is a risk and what is not a risk is inconsistent and council bods wielding chainsaws run amok. Councils are also removing big trees such as elms and oaks and replacing them with smaller trees with less invasive root systems which reduce their maintenance cost.

What seems to be ignored is that by removing big trees the root system is destroyed which holds the soil together so what can happen then is the ground sinks and subsequently causes subsidence anyway.

What insurers should be doing is adding a penalty to the premium if the front garden of a house has been paved over to act as a car park because this has far more impact overall.

bigspeed said...

Hi my name is Paul
I'm doing a media degree at Goldsmiths and would like to do a small piece on local opinion to 'tree felling' if anyone is interested in giving me their views
(on or off record)- I'm at Rayton Hall. Please email me at :
The piece will only be viewed by my fellow students. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Surely that should be 'Drayton' Hall? Strange that you should call it 'Rayton'.

Anonymous said...

And only on blogger since October 2008?

Anonymous said...

We had a bit of a discussiono on this issue on the Telegraph Hill website a three years ago
I never did get an answer as to why the Council does not get a pre-emptive report to face insurance claims with and so shift the burden of proof in any claim. Could any Brockley Ward Councillors take this up...?

Anonymous said...

I also live on the estate and I am happy the trees are gone,
after years in the darkness through no light coming in.
It is a joy to have sunshine in my home again esp as I am not so able to get out and about,living in a dreary flat with no natural light was so depressing, I have actually request the removel of these trees and so have several other's in our block.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I meant Raymont Hall. Thank you o'pedantic one

Anonymous said...

Paul, I would hope that whilst working towards that media degree they would want you to be equally pedantic.

Anonymous said...

Patrick what other "interesting" stuff happened at the assembly meeting? I love gossip

CP said...

To the anonymous resident who wanted the trees cut, I think we are all benefiting from a little more light but, should they ALL have been cut down? Without permission? Without consultation? It does look rather bleak and hideous. Brockley's charm is trees and green spaces. Not large concrete jungles. There were twenty or so trees. To fell a few and maintain the others would be more in keeping with the area and (possibly) a happier compromise for all residents don't you think? Does anyone know what the management company's plan for the land is? Apparently it's prime real estate, hope it's not some more flats. That really would block out the light.

patrick1971 said...

cp - I have a feeling that that particular anonymous is a troll. Don't rise.

gossip - I did start to write up a review of the Crofton Park local assembly for this blog, but it just got too depressing. It was well-attended, very poorly facilitated (last time they hired a professional facilitator and you could see the difference), and single-issue people were allowed to derail the meeting at all turns.

We had to do an exercise that would have been humiliating for a primary school student (colouring in a map!!!). One person on my table left in a huff when others on the table disagreed with him.

It was all just a bit shambolic this time around, with a lot of shouting and not much discussion. The next one's in January and I'll give it one more shot and then maybe not go again. It's just quite depressing watching something that could be so good fumbled by the coordinators and derailed by those who shout most loudly and who are unable to see outside their own single issue/viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

patrick 1971,

just because someone chooses to be happy about tree removel should not mean you get abusive.
In your own post you say how unhappy you felt about just one voice being heard at the meeting you attended,so why when a voice on this thread does not echo yourself do you feel the right to belittle the writer?
perhaps you need to look at your own single viewpoint and how you try to coherse CP to denouce anything but your view point when he was forming a clear polite discussion thread on the pros and cons.

"people in glass houses should not throw stones"
Perhaps you need to reflect on what you did not like about the meeting and learn from it before you critise others.
I know several people who are happy with tree removel in Brockley for various reason, damage to their buildings, gutter blockages, lack of light, are just a few.I also know people who petition to keep trees each are individuals who have a right to express their opinions, and you should respect that point.

patrick1971 said...

Methinks the lady doth protest too much...maybe if you didn't post anonymously you'd be taken more seriously. Just a thought.

lb said...

I think it's a bit unfair of you to characterise a poster as "probably a troll" simply because they've dared to venture the opinion that the trees might need cutting back. As they said, people are allowed to think differently to you.

Anonymous said...

How Brockley Central works:-

1. If you don't agree with me you're probably a troll

2. Furthermore, If you post anonomously (i.e. do not provide your full name, address, date of birth and mothers' maiden name upon every post), then the suspicions outlined in (1) above are confirmed

3. Er... that's it

Tressillian James said...

How trolls work:-

1) pick a contentious name (if related to horrific serial murder, so much the better)

2) derail every topic by taking the opposite standpoint - and refuse to discuss the merits of either case, but repeat point of view ad nauseum

3) constantly attack the blog administrator for the guidelines they set out on their own blog

4) claim there is some subversive hidden agenda to the blog

5) ruin it for everyone by reducing the blog to trite arguments, in which the troll has, in reality, only a passing interest

6) continually refer to mung beans, organic, hessian etc after any viewpoint perceived as liberal

7) post under several names to give self support

Anonymous said...

(please feel free to delete this as it's even boring the crap out of me)

1) how can a name be contentious? you lot attribute far too much to names, or the lack of names (see how brockley central works - point 2)

2) does a topic have a standpoint? most topics i see on here result in a variety of views being proferred in relation to that topic, clearly you are putting forward some kind of notion of a correct and objective standpoint that can be formulated in relation to every topic which anyone who does not subscribe to is left labelled as a troll (see how brockley central works - point 1)

3) can't recall this happening, however like anyone else if they proffer views/positions that some don't agree with others engage with them on those points, that's how public blogs work - you write something and someone, if they want to, responds to it. You seem to be suggesting some kind of exclusivity be afforded to the views of people just because they happen to administrate the site, a virtual restraining order perhaps could be issued on all those who have expressed views not in accordance with certain individuals?

4) i've never claimed there is a hidden agenda, 'subversive' or otherwise - i've been quite clear that it's patently obvious what the point of this blog is and have never heard any argument against that from those who run, or contribute to it. It's probably one of the few things that we actually agree upon

5) 'ruin it for everyone' - this is just coming back to the point that someone who doesn't agree with you must be a troll

6) that annoys me to as well i have to admit (although i've no idea what hessian means)

7) there's only one fred vest

Anonymous said...


retorting to bullying people into conforming to your way/opinions by
name calling and assuming that not having an google I.D makes any odds on their outlook is really sad,
the anonymous writer never had to name call and although their view on trees was no shared by you, they did not attack you for expression of an opinion....
real begs the ? how much is in a name......

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