COUNCIL bosses have defended plans to chop down trees which line a busy South Tyneside road.
South Tyneside Council says the 11 trees in King George Road, South Shields, are in a serious state of decline and the only option is to fell them.
The authority had come under fire from nature-loving borough businessman Colin Campbell.
All the trees have been marked with a red “X” in preparation for the work being carried out.
Mr Campbell, a social landlord who rents several properties throughout the town, claims the policy is “short-sighted and ill-thought out”.
He believes residents have the right to “hear birds singing in the trees” – and should have been consulted over the move.
However, a spokesman for South Tyneside Council said the trees being removed are diseased and emphasised that the local authority would not bring down healthy trees.
But Mr Campbell said: “Once a tree which is a 100 years old is down, it’s down.
“It takes another hundred years to grow back, but if a private individual wants planning permission and it involves cutting a tree down in the garden, the first thing the council will do is stick a preservation order on it.
“These trees don’t appear to be badly diseased. I’m sure they could last for a long enough period to enable replacement trees to fill the void.
“King George Road has been a tree-lined road for as long as I can remember, but now, for about a quarter of a mile, it’s going to be denuded.”
He added: “People like to look out at trees in the morning and hear and see the birds and bees, and not just look out at buses coming past.
“People should be consulted about this. The council is saving £300,000 by creating wild meadows and not cutting the grass, so why are they now spending money cutting down trees when it is not necessary.”
A council spokesman said: “We are aware of the importance trees play in the make-up of local communities. However, it is with regret that 11 trees on King George Road will be removed later this year.
“During an assessment of the trees by qualified and experienced arboriculturists, 11 were found to be in a serious state of decline due to decay and root damage. Removal is the only option given their condition.
“We only remove trees as a last resort and where removal is necessary, like-for-like replacement planting is carried out. New trees are due to be planted in this area in the New Year.”
Labour’s Coun Jim Foreman, who represents the Cleadon Park ward, described Mr Campbell’s views as “right in one way, but wrong in another”.
He said: “I agree that trees do create the right ambience, but they have to be the appropriate-sized trees.
“There was one new tenant at the top end of King George Road who came to me asking for trees to be removed which were too close to his property. He had to have his guttering cleared four times in 12 months because of leaves.
“My understanding is that we only remove trees which are diseased or past their sell-by-date, and that, as part of our commitment to the Great North Forest, every one removed has to be replaced by two others elsewhere.
“When we do replace trees they need to be of an appropriate size and not overbearing.”