18-year battle over tree comes to an end

Offending rowan is finally chopped down

Kathleen Cann celebrating the removal of the tree.

A South Tyneside pensioner has finally succeeded in getting rid of a rowan tree outside her house after an 18-year battle with the council.

Kathleen Cann, 69, claimed that the tree was plunging her house into darkness, damaging the pavement and even attracting flies.

However, her campaign to get the tree felled was for a long time thwarted by a neighbour who wanted it to remain.

"It was a terrible time, I had to have my lights on all day. Think of the bills," she tells the Daily Mail.

"I couldn't open up my windows because as soon as I opened them there would be bees and wasps and flies coming in through the window. I think dogs used to dirt near the tree and the smell attracted them."

The council was finally persuaded to get rid of the tree by the argument that it was causing cracks in the pavement. It was cut back to a stump, and has now been removed altogether.

The council says it will plant another tree somewhere else in the borough to compensate.

Urban trees can cause strong feelings - both for and against. There's currently a big row rumbling in Sheffield, for example, over 11 lime trees that the council wants to remove.

As campaigners point out, even when trees are replaced, it's rarely on a like-for-like basis: indeed, it takes around 60 small trees to do the same job of cleaning the air as one fully-grown plane tree.

The tree before its removal.

Research carried out in Canada has shown that urban trees are good for us, with people living on tree-lined streets showing health benefits equivalent to being seven years younger or receiving a $10,000 salary rise.

However, as Ms Cann's case shows, not everybody is happy to have a tree right next to their home. And with councils nervous about complaints - and maintenance costs - there's increasing pressure to hack them back or get rid of them altogether.

Earlier this summer, for example, a South Gloucestershire couple was awarded £25,000 in compensation after the council refused to allow a 40-foot tree to be removed, causing damage to their new conservatory.

In other cases, councils have been accused of being discriminatory, if the position of a tree makes it difficult for mobility scooters or wheelchairs to pass. All in all, it's unsurprising that many decide to play it safe.

Trapped by Trees

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Toppled tree problems