Campaigners furious after 'insensitive' council fells trees by Vale Cemetery in Luton

Furious campaigners have accused Luton Borough Council of acting "insensitively" after it began felling 215 conifer trees, including those next to a cemetery.

Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 5:32 pm
Trees are being felled next to the Vale Cemetery
Trees are being felled next to the Vale Cemetery

The fir trees form a barrier between Hitchin Road and the Vale Cemetery and Crematorium in the east of the town.

But they have grown to an extent where the local authority says they pose a safety threat to traffic on the dual carriageway.

It has decided to replace the leylandii with a 1m fence and hedgerow.

Work is undertaken close to grave sites

The council began to uproot the trees on Saturday, October 19, with several chopped down already.

Campaigners argue if the firs are felled at the leisure centre end it will leave elderly residents at Olympic Court retirement home with a constant view of gravestones.

“The council has acted insensitively in cutting down trees beside the crematorium,” said David Oakley-Hill, of Luton Friends of the Earth.

“Leylandii rarely fall down, although branches droop occasionally in heavy snow.

"They could have been trimmed and shaped as before, allowing tall vehicles to pass safely.

“In a national climate emergency we are being urged by scientists not only to plant far more trees than we are doing now, but also to protect all mature trees.

“Tree cover in overdeveloped Luton is only three per cent, yet the council has no tree planting budget."

A resident whose mother lives in the retirement flats opposite said: “Nobody thought to warn the elderly residents that their outlook will now be a cemetery.”

A social media post has received 86 messages of support, “with many people sad and outraged”, said Mr Oakley-Hill.

There is also some support for the work being done if the replacement planting takes place.

Campaigners want a semi-mature hedge, at least eight to ten feet tall, planted this winter, and are calling on the council to have a tree planting budget.

The local authority said the trees “significantly encroach on to the road at a number of points” and are “a safety issue as they obscure street lighting and road signs”.

The work is due to last around two weeks and say the fence and hedgerow “will screen the road providing safety from traffic as well as privacy for cemetery users”, it added.

“This will also help reduce noise, and improve air quality and biodiversity in the area.”