Council decides to cut down tree

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STEYNING Parish Council have voted in favour of controversial plans to cut down a healthy sycamore tree.

It has been claimed by Steyning Tennis Club that the tree (pictured right), on Memorial Playing Fields, poses a health and safety risk, as the droppings from the roosting pigeons are damaging the surface of the new £50,000 court.

At a parish council meeting held on Monday (October 10) councillors and members of the public were able to discuss plans for the tree.

Options included keeping it in its current position but either cutting the branches back, putting spikes on the branches or using a special gel which would deter birds from roosting there.

As reported in last week’s County Times those living in the town were up in arms over the plans, with one resident, John Catchpole, threatening to call a parish poll to get members of the public voting on the issue.

Mr Catchpole spoke again at the meeting and called for the need for a public debate.

Parish chairman David Barling explained that this meeting was indeed a public debate.

He also highlighted that a parish poll would cost £3000 from his small budget. He added that this could impact services in the future.

Many of those present at the meeting spoke in relation to the issue, including Petra Billings, an ecologist from Sussex Wildlife Trust.

She discussed the fact that the tree was not as old as some had said. Also that it was not good for wildlife, she said it would have been different if it was an oak but she didn’t see why it couldn’t be cut down and another tree planted in its place a few feet away.

Councillor Phil Hoare said that as part of his research he found that the sycamore was known as the ‘weed of the tree world’.Initially more research was to be carried out with the findings discussed at the next playing fields committee meeting on December 20.Many of the councillors and members of the public agreed that this issue could not wait until then.

Richard Moore, speaking on behalf on the tennis club, said that any delay would mean more costly damage to the court. He added that for the health and safety of the members of the club this issue needed to be dealt with quickly.

Councillor Paul Devlin proposed that the council agree with the tennis club’s plans to fell the tree and replace it with three others, plus more landscaping. This was seconded and the council voted unanimously.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Barling said that they were in talks with HDC’s tree officer and the tennis club to discuss possible replacements. He added that it was likely to happen in the next six weeks.