Success for campaigners' last ditch plea to save remaining conifer trees near Vale Cemetery

A last ditch plea to keep some conifers on the boundary of a Luton cemetery has been successful, although most of the trees have been chopped down.

Furious campaigners accused the borough council of acting "insensitively" after it planned to fell 215 leylandii on the edge of the site.

Only a few trees remain            [credit: Jan Ingham]

Only a few trees remain [credit: Jan Ingham]

Environmentalists made an eleventh hour plea to save a few trees to absorb pollution and prevent nearby residents at the Olympic Court retirement home from having a direct view of gravestones.

The fir trees formed a natural barrier between Hitchin Road and the Vale Cemetery and Crematorium.

David Oakley-Hill, from Luton Friends of the Earth, said: "The council has focused on safety, but not on health.

"These 200 trees have done a great job for 40 years of absorbing pollution and climate emissions.

"Now the trees are gone, cemetery visitors are exposed to visual and noise disturbance, wind and pollution, which a six-feet fence will only do so much to reduce."

Friends of the Earth has called for a replacement screen of trees, which would be effective over winter months.

As well as a wildlife-friendly hedge, it wants planting of semi-mature trees every five metres this winter.

It says every other tree should be an evergreen, such as Scots pine, Lawson cypress, juniper, thuja and holly, with yew and holm oak where space allows inside the fence.

"A small consolation is that the council has agreed to Friends of the Earth’s request to save the last ten trees, which are set back slightly from the road and help to absorb pollution near the traffic lights," added Mr Oakley-Hill.

"Three social media sites have received more than 150 messages of support, with many people sad and outraged."

Work began on cutting down the trees earlier this month.

"The decision to remove the conifers by the cemetery was not taken lightly," said a council spokeswoman.

"They are now at the point where they pose a significant risk to the highway, as they are susceptible to storm damage and breakage, and obscure street lighting and road signs.

"We considered alternative options, such as reducing their height and removing all the side branches, but the trees would not have survived this extreme pruning.

"Letters were distributed to neighbouring residents to tell them about the removal plans. We appreciate the area looks a little bare at present.

"From Monday, (Nov 4th) a boundary fence will replace the trees, along with a native hedgerow, which will screen the road and create privacy for cemetery users, as well as reduce noise and air pollution.

"There will also be other native species and oak trees which will provide extra biodiversity and will blend in with the landscape," she added.

"As a council, we are developing a comprehensive tree strategy and have been working to attract funding to support planting trees across the town.

"This includes a bid to the Urban Tree Challenge Fund for which we have received an offer of £1,800 from The Forestry Commission."