Work starts on felling 600 trees in preparation for £49m flood defence scheme

Contractors have moved into the Broadgate area of Preston to remove 600 trees along the banks of the River Ribble.

By Catherine Musgrove
Thursday, 18th February 2021, 3:45 pm

The trees will be cut down to their roots, as advised by the Environment Agency (EA) to protect existing flood barriers and prevent future damage to those set to be installed.

The work is in preparation for the £49m Preston and South Ribble Flood Risk Management Scheme, which aims to protect more than 5,000 properties over 9km. Final plans are currently awaiting approval from planning bosses at Preston and South Ribble Councils.

>>>Read more about the scheme here

Tree felling along the River Ribble in Preston

But while plans are awaiting a final green light, the felling has to take place before March 1 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. This decision to approve felling was made by landowner Preston Council in late December.

While there have been some concerns about the felling and disruption in the local area, the EA has committed to planting five new trees for each one taken down. The replacements will be a mixture of saplings and more mature examples.

After a meeting between residents and the EA on Wednesday evening, locals reported being "excited" to see work on the flood defences beginning, and pleased the EA have agreed to make sure work started at a reasonable time, after concerns were raised about noise pollution in early mornings.

Councillor Salim Desai, who represents the area, said: "I think the public understands that the trees will be replaced, and this felling work is necessary to enable the scheme to go ahead.

Specialist equipment is needed to tackle the trees along the river banks

"We do get complaints from time to time about tree felling, but not this time."

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.

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.

It is believed that much of the vegetation sprang up as a result of self-seeding, rather than planned planting – but it has grown significantly in recent years.

Preston Council has agreed to contribute £20,000 towards the estimated £100,000 cost of the removals, the rest of which is being funded by the EA.