CHOPPING down approximately 150 trees around Shannon has left a sour taste with many locals and several members of the town council called for a replacement programme this week.
At Tuesday’s town council meeting Independents Patricia McCarthy and Gerry Flynn both put down motions calling for a replacement programme to be arranged.
In a report to the meeting, senior executive engineer Eugene O’Shea defended the decisions taken regarding the removal of trees and he also acknowledged the need for a replanting programme. However, he indicated it is still months away and would be done in phases.
“The council is very conscious of the importance of trees from environmental, amenity and visual aspects. We are also very mindful of the high value placed on these resources by the Shannon community. As such, the felling that has taken place has been carefully considered and planned to ensure that only those trees that required removal in the interest of public health and safety, which must always remain paramount, were felled.
“In tandem with this felling, expert advice is being sought on the suitability of species and locations, with a view to commencing a replanting programme in the autumn. In light of budgetary restrictions, this programme will be implemented over a phased basis.”
Councillor McCarthy said that in February she was told approximately 100 trees would be removed but now it seems more than 150 have gone. “Nothing was done for years and now they have been taken out because they were unsafe without a programme to replace them.”
She said the trees were important to Shannon and they made it seem spacious, as well as benefiting the environment.
Following the removal of the trees, she said, “Many residents no longer feel a sense of ownership of the town”.
She said it is difficult to accept that replacements can’t be put in place and said funds raised through the sale of timber should have been ringfenced for the replacement of the trees.
While she acknowledged there were instances where people wanted trees to be taken out, particularly when they were close to houses, she said she didn’t think she had met anyone happy with the amount that have been removed.
She suggested the establishment of a co-operative scheme between the town and county councils, which would also allow the public to sponsor trees if they wanted. She said semi-mature replacements should be put in, rather than saplings.
Councillor Flynn said the growing season is still going on and there is no need to wait until the autumn, as suggested in the engineer’s report.
He also said the trees are of great benefit to Shannon as they help prevent flooding and absorb carbon in a town with a lot of industry.
Councillor Flynn also slammed a perceived lack of consultation with the local representatives. “It seems public representatives are surplus to requirement on a lot of occasions.”
He said an area in Dún an Óir is “wide open” and called for 20 to 30 trees to be put in quickly.
“It’s spring you put in trees not the bloody autumn,” he added.
Councillor Tony McMahon agreed that semi-mature trees should be put in place, “There’s no use in planting something a couple of feet high,” he commented.
Councillor Cathy McCafferty said that as a result of the felling, Drumgeely has been left “completely naked”. “I was shocked when I went up there,” she added.
Town manager Bernadette Kinsella said she had discussed the matter with Mr O’Shea and they were both aware of the level of feeling on the matter in the community.
She said the initial contract had begun in March and during the course of it, more areas had been identified where felling is required. “Now the onus is on us to put in place a replacement tree planting programme,” she added.
Although funds are limited, she said it is possible to come up with a programme.