The Friends of Ashton Park in West Kirby have backed a plan which will see 19 trees cut down, after studying reports by experts which judged them to be unsafe.
The work, commissioned by Wirral Council, comes after two trees in the lower park blew down last year – one of them over the Wirral Way, which is often busy with walkers and cyclists. A further 24 will have work to remove dead branches.
In a briefing note – prepared by the Friends for their 150 members and shared with West Kirby Today – they explain they were consulted in advance and, having seen the surveys assessing the condition of the trees, found them to be “thorough, professional and well-documented”. They say that while they “regret seeing trees felled…we recognise the need for such work.”
The Friends have told their members that a mature beech tree next to one which blew down last year was found by tree experts to have fungus growths on the roots and the base, a disease known as Meripilus Giganteum, and the infection could be clearly seen when it was cut down.
Claims that the felled beech was subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) are strenuously denied by Wirral Council, which says it does not place orders on trees on its own land, except where it inherits or acquires a site. A map of Tree Preservation Orders on the council’s website does not show any in Ashton Park.
Dave Wade and Martin Harrison from the Friends of Ashton Park said: “Ashton Park is an urban park which requires tree management from time to time so we need tree surgeons. If this was a remote forest this work would be unlikely to be necessary unless trees had invasive diseases: but it is not a remote forest.
“Wirral Council have agreed to our request to discuss replanting trees where spaces exist that will allow replanting. We have already received offers to fund new trees for which we thank our members.”
Wirral Council’s Cabinet member for leisure and recreation, Cllr Phillip Brightmore, said: “No one wants to see trees, especially mature trees such as these, felled. But an examination of them by tree specialists has revealed they would be a danger to the public, including the many families with young children who use the play area and it is vital that action is taken. Safety of the public must be paramount.”
The Friends of Ashton Park were formed back in 1991, when they successfully campaigned against plans to close the children’s playground.
The play area is currently closed for improvements, with council contractors replacing the sponge tarmac around the equipment.
Treasurer Martin Harrison told West Kirby Today: “The playground has been deteriorating over the last couple of years as the tarmac bedding that the kids run on has been breaking up.
“They’re just finishing that job now, so the playground will be opening again soon. It looks absolutely fabulous, the colours are bright and a contrast and the kids will love it.”
Since they launched, the Friends have helped fund the installation of direction signage, noticeboards, interpretation boards and a multi-use games area.
Martin Harrison also revealed that they have recently secured a pledge from the council to dredge the park lake, which is silting up.
He said: “Two years ago we had a petition. Well over a thousand people signed it within two months, and Wirral have now undertaken to dredge it, hopefully next year, so that it’s good for the wildlife and it also looks good for our lovely urban park.”
People wanting to find out more about the work of the Friends of Ashton Park can visit their website.