Luxury basements "not to blame" for tree failure, council says

A West London council has denied that the toppling of an apparently healthy mature tree in a communal garden was the result of a spate of basement developments under neighbouring properties.

Elgin Crescent - Image: Harshil Shah
Elgin Crescent - Image: Harshil Shah

No one was hurt when a 10m-tall honey locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos) in the gardens between Elgin Crescent and Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, fell a week ago.

Residents, including the writer Rachel Johnson who is sister of London mayor Boris Johnson, claimed that the 50 or so basement developments since 2000 had altered drainage in the garden, so affecting the stability of trees.

But a representative for Kensington and Chelsea council, which is investigating the case, said: "This had nothing to do with the basements. The tree had a very poor root system and does not do well in damp, clay conditions."

Paul MacQueen of Modern Arboricultural Services, added that the part of the gardens suffered poor drainage and had been been prone to flooding for some time. Most of the Notting Hill area sits on heavy clay soil.

The council has nonetheless issued guidance requiring contractors digging out basements close to trees to avoid damage to their roots, adding that it "see no merit putting at risk its fine heritage of trees to facilitate the construction of basements".

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