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Stowmarket councillors and residents are demanding an apology over buddleia bush blunder

Councillors and residents are demanding an apology after an apparent ‘mix-up’ led to three walnuts trees – instead of a buddleia bush – being cut down in error.

Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) said this week that a ‘regrettable misunderstanding’ with Suffolk County Council had led the to the felling of the trees in Walnut Tree Walk, Stowmarket, last month.

Five walnut trees were planted more than 10 years ago by the late Mike Arbon, the then head teacher of Stowmarket Middle School – which is located on the road.

Simon Lee-Frampton and Sharri McGarry of Stowmarket Eco Future Group at the walnut trees. Picture by Mark Westley.
Simon Lee-Frampton and Sharri McGarry of Stowmarket Eco Future Group at the walnut trees. Picture by Mark Westley.

MSDC had previously said it was ‘instructed’ to cut down the trees by the county council but backtracked this week on its previous statement.

It is now understood Suffolk County Council (SCC) was called to the road last October to look at an overgrown buddleia bush which it recommended be cut back within 21 days.

The council wrote to MSDC asking them to do so but neglected to mention the word ‘buddleai’ in the letter – but did send a picture.

Instead, it sent general information about standard management of overhanging vegetation.

Cllr Andrew Stringer wants an apology
Cllr Andrew Stringer wants an apology

When SCC returned to the site in December, and the buddleia had been cut, believed to have been by a resident, and not MDSC, the case was closed.

Subsequently, when a team from MDSC arrived 50 days late, in January, with no buddleia overhanging, thought the job referred to the trees, which it cut down instead, and then cut back, the remaining two.

MDSC Green party councillor Andrew Stringer, a former pupil at Stowmarket Middle School, said the ‘blunder’ had caused ‘outcry’.

He has tabled a question to Cllr Jessica Flemming, MDSC cabinet member for environment and waste, ahead of its council meeting on February 18, demanding an apology. It reads:

Given the justified public outcry of this council cutting down three of the walnut trees planted by my former headteacher Mike Arbon in Walnut Tree Walk in Stowmarket, and the council subsequently stating, incorrectly, that this was because Suffolk County Council Highways demanded their removal within 21 days, when will the council offer an apology and admit it was wrong?

The move has been backed by residents.

Sharri McGarry, from Stowmarket, said: “This is about communication with local people about when trees will be felled and why – trees have a community value, and their destruction causes community grief.

Yes we want an apology.

Mid Suffolk District Council has reassured residents that replacement walnut trees will be planted as part of a scheme to build houses nearby. The scheme currently has outline planning permission.

In response to demands for an apology, Cllr Fleming, said: “Following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this issue, I can see that between Suffolk County Council and Mid Suffolk District Council some misunderstanding clearly took place which, very regrettably, led to two trees being cut back and three cut down along Walnut Tree Walk.

“Extra procedures have now been put in place to prevent anything similar from happening again.”

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said they concurred with the statement by Mid Suffolk District County Council.

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