Hundreds of trees to be cut down in Preston as part of flood defence plans

Around 600 trees along the banks of the River Ribble will be cut down to their roots as part of preparations for a major flood defence scheme.

Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 6:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 9:36 pm
Around 590 trees on the banks of the Ribble along Broadgate and Riverside will be removed as part of work to upgrade flood defences - but those lining the roadside will remain (all images: Michelle Adamson)

Their removal has been advised by the Environment Agency (EA) to protect existing flood barriers and prevent future damage to those set to be installed as part of a £49m project which is currently in the final stages of development.

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First images of what £49m flood defence scheme for Preston and South Ribble coul...

A report presented to a recent meeting of Preston City Council’s cabinet described almost all of the trees to be felled – mostly along Broadgate, with a small number on Riverside – as “low value and poor quality”. Many of the individual specimens are also known to be suffering from the fungal disease ash dieback.

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The majority of the trees to be taken down were self-seeded and are considered to be "low value and poor quality"...

However, ten of the affected trees are mature sycamores, standing in the Broadgate Gardens area, close to the junction with Fishergate Hill and Liverpool Road. Members were told that these were of “higher quality” and on the landward side of the current defences, but still required removal.

The EA has committed to planting five new trees for each one taken down as a result of work on its Preston and South Ribble Flood Risk Management Scheme, which is designed to better protect 4,800 homes and 350 businesses. The replacements will be a mixture of saplings and more mature examples.

Preston City Council owns the land where the soon-to-be-felled trees are located, meaning it is responsible for the maintenance of vegetation on the river bank. It is believed that much of it sprang up as a result of self-seeding, rather than planned planting – but it has grown significantly in recent years.

The authority’s cabinet agreed to contribute £20,000 towards the estimated £100,000 cost of the removals, the rest of which will be funded by the EA. The agency will also oversee the specialist work, much of which will have to be carried out from the river itself, using specialist equipment and contractors.

...but 10 "higher quality" mature sycamores are also set to be removed from Broadgate Gardens

The process will have to be completed before 1st March to ensure that it does not coincide with the bird nesting season and also to fit in with the timeframe for development of the wider flood defence scheme.

Deputy city council leader Peter Moss – whose City Centre ward encompasses much of the Broadgate area – said the project was “vitally important”.

“Flooding can cause devastation for both households and businesses and…that area is now quite vulnerable, because of climate change and rising water levels.

“The loss of trees is sad, but the increase in the number of trees [overall] – which will be able to be planned for – will hopefully, in the longer term, provide a lot of benefits for residents in the area,” Cllr Moss said.

A £49m flood defence scheme is proposed to better protect properties close to the River Ribble

As part of its tree replacement pledge, the EA is seeking areas of land close to the Ribble where planting can take place. The organisation has also proposed to re-landscape Broadgate Gardens, which is likely to incorporate new trees as part of any redesign.

The EA also intends to work with South Ribble Borough Council, which has made its own commitment to plant 110,000 trees in the coming years, on the creation of a wetland habitat in the Ribble Sidings area.

Ground investigation work for the flood defence scheme took place earlier this year and planning permission for the final design will now be required before work can begin in 2021.

The latest stages of more than three years of public consultation – which has included the issue of tree removal – have been driven online by the pandemic.

The existing flood defence wall in Broadgate Gardens, with established sycamores on the landward side and "poorer quality" examples closer to the river - in this location, both will be removed.

A newsletter issued by the EA in October addresses the problems posed by the self-seeding trees on the river bank.

“Removal of these will allow access for construction and ensure new defences are not damaged by tree root growth.

“Self-seeded trees are trees that haven’t been planted or planned, these trees can be as a result of seeds arriving by birds, the river and the wind. They can cause damage to flood barriers, footpaths and walls due to lack of maintenance,” the document notes.

More than £6.5m of funding for the overall scheme is coming from the European Regional Development Fund.


Pam Wilson lives directly opposite the Ribble on Broadgate and says she was expecting that the trees on the river side of the wall would probably be lost.

Almost all of the trees to be cut down are on the riverbank side of the wall along Broadgate - council documents state that many of them are suffering from a fungal disease known as "ash dieback"

“It’s a real shame, but I’m glad they are doing the defences - and you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, as they say.

“But 10 mature trees is a lot [to lose]. The irony is that trees take up water and hold the bank together, but not enough, I guess,” Pam added.

Greg Smith, a resident of South End - a road just off Broadgate - says locals appear content with the replacement planting plans.

"From the people I have spoken to, I haven't picked up on any great issue with the trees. Some residents recall flooding in this area back in the 1970s and so they are glad of the extra protection.

"It will be sad to lose the more mature trees on this side of the wall, but as long as there are more planted than removed, I don't think it's a major concern."


The Preston and South Ribble Flood Risk Management Scheme will replace or add more than five miles of defences over a three-year period. Some of the new barriers will contain glass panels to maintain views across the Ribble.

The planned defences will be higher than the existing protective measures in the area – some of which date as far back as the 1920s, others to the 1980s – which are deemed to have come to the end of their useful life.

This is what the EA is proposing:

Broadgate – replacement of existing concrete wall between Liverpool Road bridge and Penwortham Old Bridge, with a new one whose maximum height will be 1.6m compared to the current 1.23m.

Riverside – a new concrete wall along the boundary of the BAC/EE Preston Social and Sports Association cricket pitch between Miller Gardens apartments and the two flood gates at Ribble Cottage.

- replacement of existing concrete wall between Penwortham Old Bridge and Miller Gardens apartments with a new one whose maximum height will be 2.24m compared to the current 1.08m. Includes glass panels on top.

- replacement of existing concrete wall running on the riverside of the road in front of The Continental restaurant with a new one whose maximum height will be 2.53m compared to the current 1.09m. Includes glass panels on top.

Miller Park – a new concrete retaining wall along a ramped section of the main cycleway and earth embankment in Miller Park, with a maximum height of 2m compared to the 1.09m of the existing wall.

Penwortham Methodist Church – a new concrete wall with a maximum height of 2.2m. Includes road ramp to raise existing road levels at the entrance to the church by 1m.

Golden Way Footpath – a new concrete wall with a maximum height of 2.2m.

Riverside Road – replacement of existing concrete wall running along Riverside Road from the Cadent Gas Pipe Bridge to Stanley Avenue (upstream end of Riverside Road) with a new one whose maximum height will be 2.2m compared to the current 1.3m. Includes glass panels on top.

Ribble Sidings – replacement of existing 1.7m flood defence embankment with a 3.5m-high embankment with a 3m crest width. The existing riverside footpath route will be maintained with an access ramp over the proposed flood defences and a new habitat area created on the dry side of the new embankment.

Source: Environment Agency (wall and embankment heights subject to change)

For more details visit:

The height of the existing flood wall along Broadgate is set to be increased to up to 1.6m
Residents spoken to by the Post say they will be sad to lose the sycamores close to the Liverpool Road bridge, but understand the need for the flood defence scheme
It is thought that self-seeding trees on the riverbank could damage existing - and future - flood defences