Friends of Tooting Common
                 
 

The future of Chestnut Avenue:
statement by Friends of Tooting Common

 
 
 

Success of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid

The Friends of Tooting Common (FOTC) welcome Wandsworth Council’s decision to accept the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to fund the Tooting Common Heritage Project, and congratulations are due to everyone at Wandsworth Council and the voluntary groups involved in the successful bid. We look forward to the many benefits Phase II of this project will bring to the Tooting Commons.

Council meeting on the Heritage Lottery Fund bid

FOTC sent a deputation to Wandsworth Council’s Community Safety Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 18th February 2016 to speak on behalf of our members about proposals to cut down trees on Chestnut Avenue, following the appearance of disease in some of the trees (set out in Council paper 16-60 here, which was to be voted on at the meeting). The Tooting Commons Management Advisory Committee (TCMAC) and the Furzedown Community Network (FCN) also sent deputations.

Our main concern was that there is no mention in that Council paper of any intention to consult the public on the replacement of the chestnut trees, while, for example, there is a written commitment to consult for a second time on the closure of Dr Johnson Avenue. So FOTC were concerned that, despite earlier promises to consult, there would be no public consultation. FOTC were also concerned that the full range of expert advice provided to Wandsworth Council was not made available.


 
   
 

 

 

The Council meeting

At the Council meeting, FOTC requested that the Council give a firm commitment to consult the public on proposals to replace Chestnut Avenue, and to promise that the tree condition survey (carried out by independent tree experts on behalf of the Council) and all other expert advice would be made available to the public. The FOTC offered to assist with elements of the consultation, if that would be helpful to the Council.

The Chair of FOTC, Peter Ramell, stated at the meeting that: “At the very least there has been uncertainty in the past as to whether or not there would be consultation on the proposal to remove the chestnut trees.” He went on to say that “certain concerns have been expressed that this proposal is at least partly based on the fact that funding from the HLF will be made available for the complete replacement of the trees, but that HLF funding might not be available for other options for dealing with the issue of the diseased trees. If that were the case, that would be an inappropriate basis for pursuing that option. It is important that the decision on the way forward is based on the best expert advice and the long term interests of the common.“

At the meeting, the Councillors confirmed that the Council would indeed carry out a public consultation, and that all relevant information would be made available to allow members of the public to make informed decisions. FOTC welcome this clarification, and have offered to help with the consultation, although remain disappointed that this commitment to consult is not written into Council paper 16-60.

Reports on the condition of trees on Chestnut Avenue

FOTC are also surprised that the Council’s Community Safety Overview & Scrutiny Committee has not been provided with all the relevant Tooting Commons tree reports by Council officers. We urge that these reports are provided so that Councillors can make the most informed decision they can. These reports are: the Council’s own “Tooting Common Management and Maintenance Plan” (from August 2015); the Landscape Group, University of East Anglia’s “Tooting Common Heritage Tree Study” (from May 2015); and Treework Environmental Practice’s “2015 Tooting Common Tree Condition Survey” (from 2015).

 
 
 
 

Notification of Council plans to FOTC

At the council meeting council officers said that FOTC, and the TCMAC, had been informed initially in May 2015 of the plans for Chestnut Avenue.

Peter Ramell clarified that the FOTC committee had been informed in May 2015 and asked for any views, but that Council officers had requested that the committee treat the information as confidential.

FOTC wrote to the Council to say that we needed to consult our members in order to give a view, and asking when we could do so. We also said that it was important that the Council undertake public consultation on this issue in view of its importance, and we urged the Council to announce clearly to the public what was intended.

However despite a number of requests and comments to this effect during 2015 we received no reply from the Council on these points. This continued lack of response from the Council over a long period of time on the issue of releasing the information had placed us in a very difficult position.

When the Council paper came out, and did not mention a public consultation on the removal of Chestnut Avenue, the Friends (as well as TCMAC and FCN) were very concerned that the trees might be cut down without more information being provided to the public.

 

   
 

Friends of Tooting Common
21 February 2016