CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Christmas lights cancelled in Belsize Park

Dangerous dead trees could topple at any moment, warns council

23 October, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Actor Jim Broadbent, Budgens Andrew Thornton and Linda Grove at last year’s event 

CHRISTMAS lights have been cancelled in Belsize Park – after the council announced urgent works to cut down the trees which hold-up the festive decorations.

Organisers are devastated after Town Hall said they had to immediately remove “potentially dangerous” dead trees in Haverstock Hill by December at the latest.

Camden Council is worried that if one of trees, which have been killed by fungus, fell in stormy weather it could cause a domino effect once the trees are connected by “winter lights”.

Around £2,000 already raised for a big switch-on event – scheduled for the end of November – is now being returned to sponsors of the lights.

Festive lights organiser Linda Grove said the council was “piling up the reasons why we can’t go ahead with lights”, adding: “So no lights no show this year despite having worked hard to set it all up.”

Flower beds, recently loving restored by volunteers around the base of the trees, will also have to be removed as they are a “trip hazard”, according to a council officer.

A flowerbed for Nazanin Ratcliffe – the West Hampstead charity worker detained in Iran – has recently been planted in Belsize Park. Ms Grove, who has campaigned for her release, said she was hoping that it will not be disrupted by the work. Actor Jim Broadbent sang carols in Belsize Park last year under the magical lights organised by Ms Grove.

An email to Ms Grove from the council tree department, an officer said: “The two dead trees do require removal as soon as possible, particularly the large Horse Chestnut which is known to have a butt decay fungus called Ganoderma. This fungus attacks the tree root system and the base of the truck, structurally weakening and destabilising the tree.”

It added: “As the trees are dead and diseased, they have to be considered potentially dangerous, particularly during windy and adverse weather conditions, such as parts of the country have experienced recently. The removal these trees is a matter of public safety.”

The email adds two strings of lights will have to be removed  from other neighbouring trees and the “electrical junction boxes positioned in the trees that the support cabling for the lights”.

The email adds that “crown failure in one tree could lead to a forces failure in a an adjacent tree via the connecting cable”, adding: “On this occasion, the council will cover the cost of removing the decorative lights…”

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