‘The council stole my tree’

NADV 1201231 Lester Hurst's tree. Least Hurst with what is left of his tree. (1201231AM1)
NADV 1201231 Lester Hurst's tree. Least Hurst with what is left of his tree. (1201231AM1)

A HARROGATE man came home from work to find that the council had “stolen” his tree.

Lester Hurst, an estate agent who lives on the private road Roseway, off Bilton Grove Avenue, said his 25ft whitebeam tree had been removed without permission - or prior warning.

Harrogate Council has admitted that it was wrong to take away a tree not in its jurisdiction, but said the whitebeam was diseased, and could have caused serious damage.

Mr Hurst said: “I’m completely bemused.

“We went to work one morning and when we came back the tree had gone.

“It was a 25ft tree and it had been neatly felled and taken away out of the blue.”

Unsure who was responsible, Mr Hurst contacted the police. He later found out that it was Harrogate Council who had felled and taken the tree.

“Roseway is a private road. The council have no reason to be down that road,” said Mr Hurst, who bought the property at Roseway 18 months ago.

“They have not written to me or my neighbours.

“I’m completely baffled how the council can come onto private land and start felling trees.

“If I did that on the Stray, I would be going to jail.”

He said that if the council had an issue with the tree, the authority should have contacted him.

“The tree is on my grounds, it is quite clearly marked in my boundary if you look on the Land Registry,” Mr Hurst said.

“It’s my land, it’s my private property, if they have got a problem with it, then speak to me about it.

“They have ignored that and gone beyond it and that’s not right.”

A Harrogate Council spokesman said the authority had undertaken a survey on Roseway as part of its strategy, and an initial check had suggested it had responsibility for the road.

“On being approached by Mr Hurst, following the work, a check was made and it was found that Roseway is in fact an unadopted road,” she said.

“However, had the officer known this when he checked the system, he would have enquired with North Yorkshire County Council, as highway authority, as to whether it would be necessary to serve an order for the removal of the tree under Section 154(2) of the Highways Act 1980, works which could have been at the residents’ cost.”

She said the whitebeam tree was in “serious decline”, leaning towards a private driveway and footpath.

“Harrogate Borough Council’s tree specialists will do all in their power to save trees and do not remove them lightly,” she said.

“But this tree was more than 50 per cent diseased with two attached brackets of ganoderma applanatum, a white rot producing fungi, observed at the time of inspection.

“The result was that the tree stem fibres had become soft and sinewy and exposing the tree to potential failure.

“The council has apologised to Mr Hurst for the misunderstanding over responsibility for the tree but the outcome is a diseased tree has been removed that was in danger of causing damage and perhaps injury.”