Council stops woman pruning 22m tree in her own garden

‘If it falls over then it will crush our house and the neighbour’s too,’ says Celia Senior

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A primary schoolteacher has been refused permission to prune a giant, 72ft tree that towers over her home, despite it growing in her own garden.

Celia Senior, 57, fears the huge lime tree is at risk of falling on top of her three-bedroom detached property if it is left untreated.

She and husband Mark, 58, moved into the house in Brompton Walk, Darlington, County Durham, in 2007, after paying £195,000 for the property.

She says the tree, which is on the couple’s land, was approximately 30ft tall but has grown more than two feet each year, to the equivalent of 22m.

It is now more than twice the size of their home and Ms Senior says it is making their lives a misery.

She applied to Darlington Borough Council for permission to have it trimmed to 35ft and even offered to pay £3,000 to have the work done professionally.

But town hall chiefs refused, saying it was protected by a tree preservation order and any pruning would ruin its appearance.

Ms Senior said: “When we moved into the house we knew about the tree preservation order and liked the tree, but it’s just too big now. It simply won’t stop growing.

“I really don’t want the tree cut down; I just want to manage it so it is safe.

“Our gutters are constantly blocked by moss and leaves and our TV and phone signals are badly affected by it.

“During the winter storms I was really worried because I could hear the wind rocking the tree.

“If the tree falls over then it will crush our house and the neighbour’s home too.

“The paving slabs on the other side of the tree have started to be raised, which is dangerous for people walking by, and I worry about someone getting hurt.”

No pruning can be carried out without permission from Darlington council

Last December Ms Senior commissioned an independent arborist to write a report about what should be done with the tree.

The report suggested it underwent a “significant crown reduction and reshape” in order to reduce the risk of the tree being uprooted in high winds.

The report stated: “Common lime are fast-growing trees that will reach a significant height.

“Without suitable management this tree will continue to increase in size, both vertically and laterally.

“Due to its size, more significant structural failure must not be dismissed, and a suitable arboricultural management programme is required to reduce this health and safety risk and maintain and ensure the health of the tree.”

Ms Senior said: “Initially we were concerned it might fall onto the house because of the way it is leaning. The arborist said that wasn’t the case, but he thought it did need to be managed.

“The arborist recommended that the tree was cut back to around 35ft, which would cost about £3,000 – I would be willing to pay that myself.”

In January this year the council rejected her application, saying the tree was protected and any pruning would have a “detrimental impact” on its appearance.

Ms Senior lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate in a bid to overturn the ruling, but is still waiting for a response.

She added: “I really don’t think the council is being logical. I can’t understand their objection because it will look a lot nicer in the neighbourhood.

“The council wrote to the neighbours and no one had any objections to the tree being pruned. People have even being saying it’s about time it was done.”

A spokesperson for Darlington Borough Council said: “We can confirm permission was refused for the tree works and we understand the houseowner has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.

“It would not be appropriate to comment while we, like the householder, await the outcome of the appeal.”

A refusal notice issued by the council stated the tree was in “reasonable form and condition”.

It said: “Without any satisfactory justification, the proposed crown lift and associated pruning would result in a loss of natural form to a protected tree in acceptable condition with no safety concerns. Furthermore, the application has not provided any structural reasons for the proposed work.”

SWNS

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