The chainsaw massacre of six trees in front of Preston Guild Hall has been defended by new owner Simon Rigby.
Workmen felled the London Planes over the weekend to uncover the frontage of the world famous building in time for the official handover ceremony on Monday.
Eye-witness Keith Johnson, who photographed the operation, said: “It’s a pity they will no longer be on view to brighten that part of the city, which is already bereft of greenery.”
But Mr Rigby, who is spending £1m to spruce up the tired building, said the work had been necessary to reveal the Guild Hall in all its splendour after years hidden behind a cloak of vegetation.
“To put the new front in the trees unfortunately had to go,” he said. “But, having said that, they weren’t in very good condition. There was only one which wasn’t condemned by our tree expert and that was damaged in the summer.”
Removal of the trees, planted in the 70s, was passed unanimously by the city’s planning committee in August when they agreed Mr Rigby’s application to redesign the frontage of the “Brutalist” style building.
At the time members went against the advice of the council’s principal landscape architect and an arborist who both felt the trees should be saved and just pruned back.
But yesterday a spokesman for the authority said: “Planning permission was given unanimously and that included the removal of the trees. As far as we are concerned they had been planted too close together and had outgrown their location. One of the trees in the summer lost a large branch which crashed down into the road. Luckily no-one was beneath it. They were too big, too close together and if Mr Rigby hadn’t taken over the Guild Hall, we would have had to do something about them ourselves in the future.”