Cost of Saving Park's Cedar Tree Put At £24,000

Photo: cedar tree pictured in 2014, A. D. Winter

The cost of saving a prominently positioned lebanese cedar tree in Houghton Hall Park, Houghton Regis, has been put at £24,000.

The figures, sent from Houghton Regis Town Council, show the cost breakdown as:  hire of the temporary fencing approximately £2,700, tree decay testing £970, tree consultant £1,230, tree work £925, permanent fencing £9,349, mulch bed to cost £8820, making a grand total of £23,994.

The cedrus lebani tree was discovered to be irreversibly diseased in 2016. The tree was tested because of the presence of Phaeolus Schweinitzi, a fungi that causes brown rot, which degrades the cellulose. Decay initiated above ground can lead to branch snap or breakout.

A consultant was engaged who conducted tomograph tests to assess the health of the tree at two different heights. The consultant advised that advanced levels of decay were indicated. At the higher level large branches could fail, or in wet, windy conditions it was regarded extremely likely that the whole tree might fall. The consultant outlined possible ways forward, including complete removal, crown reduction, creating a chainsaw memorial, pruning and fencing work.

At this news, many people in the town expressed their feelings showing how much the cedar tree was revered. A Special Meeting of the Town Council was convened in the summer of 2016 which recognised the tree's significant importance to the local community.

Land at Houghton Hall Park is owned in part by Houghton Regis Town Council, and in part by Central Bedfordshire Council. The cedar tree was  on land owned by the Town Council. In making their decision the Town Councillors considered public safety issues, and the stability of the tree. The tree was protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

The Agenda for the July 2016 meeting, and the consultant's report is available at HRTC website or here.

Many questions were posed by members of the public, as well as by councillors. The meeting was advised by an arboriculturist from BHA Trees, who was present. A voting majority of 7 in favour, 4 against, agreed to, "carry out necessary crown and limb reduction to the tree and erect an exclusion fence with warning signs all around the tree to prevent anyone accessing the fall zone".

Afterwards, Cllr Jimmy Carroll commented on Facebook, "Many many thanks to those in Houghton Regis and beyond who helped with the public consultations on the Village Green and Town Council web site and especially those who made the effort to attend the Special Town Council Meeting. You have helped the Town Councillors make a way forward for this most ancient member of our COMMUNITY."

Former Town Councillor, Alan Winter, commented on Facebook at the time, "Because of its position I think I would have opted for its removal. However, the tree quite possibly will last many more years so if the team redesigning the park could take the paths further away from the cedar tree that would further help with safety concerns."

There were mixed comments posted on Facebook from the public.

One wrote, "Will it not look like a complete eyesore then with fences and signs??? Will it not just detract from any improvements that are being implemented at the site? It's a tree, it's diseased, get over it and move on people."

Another wrote, "The report is interesting reading and I suspect the experts do not always get it right, and my own feelings are that the cedar tree in Houghton Hall may well survive another 100 years!"

Another  suggested, " If it does have to go ... I reckon carve [it into] ... a giant squirrel."

Crown reduction and pruning works to the cedar tree near Houghton Hall were completed in February 2016.