Street trees face threat from unjustified insurance claims

Anger at number of street trees removed unnecessarily.

Up to 2,000 London street trees have been given the chop in the past five years, condemned by usually unwarranted subsidence claims, London Assembly report A Chainsaw Massacre reveals. In some boroughs up to 40 per cent of trees removed have been due to insurance claims. Yet the assembly’s environment committee heard that barely one per cent of these claims were justified. Committee chairman Darren Johnson said: “We need to see clear guidelines on subsidence to ensure insurance companies demonstrate a much greater burden of proof before trees are removed. We need the Local Government Association and the insurance industry working together to produce guidelines and make sure the insurance industry adheres to them. Tree officers say litigation rather than real danger is driving many trees to be chopped down. It’s likely the vast majority of trees are not at fault.” The report said insurance companies acknowledged there was a lack of clear guidelines. The survey showed that, over the past five years, 40 per cent of the 325 trees removed in Hackney, 16 per cent of 1,500 trees in Brent and 10 per cent of the 600 trees in Camden have been removed because of subsidence claims. In total, London has lost around 40,000 street trees with 48,000 planted over the past five years. The committee is now planning to look at the effect that the loss of back gardens, currently classified as brownfield land, is having on the environment. London Tree Officers’ Association chairman Andy Tipping helped research the report with evidence from 29 London local authorities.

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