Dangerous tree to be removed from Dorset House site

We regret that the copper beech tree at the rear of the Dorset House site opposite Latimer Grange has been inspected and has been found to be dangerous.  Here is the Tree Officer’s report in full (and please see the postscript about a further tree)


The Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was made on the 19th of October in 2004 as part of the Council’s continuing programme of TPO review; the Order replaced an older ‘Area Order TPO dating back to 1961, which was significantly out of date and effectively unenforceable. Around the same time the Dorset House School site became vacant and available for redevelopment. The TPO included 11 individual trees and 2 tree groups incorporating a further 10 trees. Due to an assessment made of tree conditions and quality a number of trees on the site were excluded from the Order.


An application under the TPO to fell T11, a mature copper beech tree, was registered on the 8th of June 2009. The reason given in the application is that the tree is infected with a root-decay fungus, Meripilus giganteus, and that an arboriculturalist advises that the tree is thus dangerous being liable to windthrow. The application is accompanied by a Tree Survey Report, which includes photographic evidence of the presence of the ephemeral fruiting body of the fungus concerned.


Officers Assessment

The photographs included in the application show a large fungus at the base of the tree, which is unmistakably the fruiting body of Meripilus giganteus. The photograph was taken in October 2008 and at the time of my inspection in June these had largely disintegrated; nevertheless I am in no doubt that a correct identification has been made. The inspection comments of the 2008 survey indicate that there was some incipient die-back of shoot tips in the crown of the tree, which may be symptomatic of disease or dysfunction in the root system. These crown symptoms have since become very much more pronounced, with as much as a 25% reduction in the density of the tree’s foliage being evident.


The host/pathogen combination of Meripilus on beech is one of the most significant disease associations in terms of tree hazard evaluation. The fungus causes a pervasive and aggressive rot in the anchorage roots of the trees’ root-plate, which the tree is not able to counter effectively. In addition to causing the internal decay of woody structural roots the fungus is a moderate pathogen capable of killing roots. The definitive reference in the literature is provided by Dr David Lonsdale, in the Government published text, Principles of Tree Hazard Assessment and Management, (HMSO 1999). Dr Lonsdale’s summary of the significance of the fungus to tree stability is unequivocal,


‘By the time that large fruit bodies of M. giganteus appear, especially on F. sylvatica [beech], it is likely that a high chance of windthrow exists. Crown symptoms may be present by this stage, but by no means always. Indeed, the upper roots may be largely sound, even though the deeper ones are extensively decayed. Due to this pattern of symptom development, and to the severe weakening of the partially decayed wood, M. giganteus is one of the most dangerous decay fungi to be found on F. sylvatica.’


Under section 198(6)(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 Local Planning Authority (LPA) consent is not required for the cutting down of a TPO tree if it is dead, dying or dangerous. Given the widespread and progressive crown die-back symptoms evident it is reasonable to consider that the tree may be dying although this is not certain. However the confirmed presence of Meripilus considered in combination with the crown symptoms indicate that the tree is definitely potentially dangerous and in my opinion the exemption at section 198(6)(a) does apply.


Government advice given to LPAs at paragraph 6.44 of Tree Preservation Orders- A Guide to the Law and Good Practice, is clear in that LPAs should not purport to ‘decide’ works applied for which are in fact exempt; instead the applicant should be written to without delay and advised that the TPO does not apply.


Under section 206(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 a duty exists for the replacement of a tree removed under section 198(6)(a). The duty is to plant another tree; of an appropriate size and species; at the same place [as defined by the schedule and map of the TPO]; as soon as this can reasonably be done, i.e. before the end of the next planting season. The duty transfers to a new owner if the land changes hands.



Evidence has been presented to the Council, which reasonably demonstrates that the copper beech tree is dangerous; the tree is therefore exempt from the protection of the TPO. The Council must not therefore attempt to determine the application under the TPO; instead it should write to the agents of the tree owner without delay informing them of this position and of their statutory duty to replace the tree (further advice over species selection can be provided in due course).



Post Script

The condition of one of the horse chestnut trees within G1, along the London Road frontage was also identified as a cause of concern in the 2008 tree survey; this is related to a severe infection with chestnut bleeding canker (Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi); I am anticipating an application related to this tree in the future following a further more detailed assessment of the tree.

Bury Knowle Park needs Friends!

Would you like to:

  • help improve the park’s appearance?
  • have a say in the park’s facilities?
  • improve the local conservation value?
  • increase the park’s safety?

Why not help us start up a Friends of Bury Knowle Park group?

There are lots of benefits:

  • the groups are a great way to meet new people
  • you can make a positive contribution to your local area
  • it’s a great way to get exercise, improve your health and wellbeing
  • you can have a say in tackling vandalism and crime in the parks
  • you can influence future improvements to the park
  • Friends Groups can apply for funding to improve parks
  • Groups can organise community events
  • you can access training
  • you can enhance your skills

Come to the Headington Festival on Sunday 7 June and find our stall!  We shall have an informal meeting at 3 o’clock and everyone is welcome

Dorset House latest

The campaign to save Dorset House from demolition was mentioned briefly in yesterday’s Oxford Mail , click here for the link.

Five residents from Latimer Grange and McMaster Court attended yesterday’s site meeting with the demolition company, along with the Latimer Grange manager and Ruth.

The project supervisor’s name is Eric and he will be present on the site at all times during demolition. The work is scheduled to start on Monday 8 June and the hours of work will be between 8.00 and 18.00 Monday to Friday, and 08.00-13.00 Saturdays, this was agreed with approval of residents.  It is scheduled to take 8 weeks and all access will be from London Road.

The dismantled materials will be recycled as much as possible – bricks, roof tiles, timber. In the unlikely event that contractors’ machines will damage the pavement outside (making it difficult for the elderly with buggies), the demolition firm will make good the damage.  Asbestos is present on the site but appropriate safety precautions are being taken. Some of the trees have a protection order on them and ‘crowd barrier’ style fencing will be placed around them with signs to warn demolition staff to keep clear of them.  A map was produced which shows which trees have TPOs and which not (the majority along the London Road boundary). There will be no burning on site.  Dust will be damped down as much as possible.   The site will be locked up as now during the project, and the side gate to Latimer Road may need to be strengthened.  Contractor parking will be on site.

Representatives from Quintain arrived towards the end of the meeting.  They said that they would shortly be approaching Oxford City Council for pre-application advice regarding development of the site but they didn’t know what would be in the application. (They withdrew their previous application four years ago which was for student accommodation)  One person from Quintain said that in his view there was only one tree on site worth keeping and that was a copper beech at the rear of the site opposite Latimer Grange, but that was diseased.  It also turned out that this particular tree is in the way of the demolition.  I rang the Tree Officer immediately to ask him to do checks on this, and also the Head of Planning Control and Development at the City Council. To be frank, I am concerned that trees may be lost, although there is no evidence to back this up, and I have already arranged that an enforcement officer keeps a close watch on the project

The local residents have been invited to visit the site at any time and raise any issues they may have with Eric the supervisor.  If any resident from Latimer Grange needs Eric’s contact number I suggest they contact Andrew the manager, and I have it too.

What do you think of the London Rd plans?

It was good to see so many people at the exhibition on Saturday morning! If you haven’t yet seen the County Council’s plans for upgrading the London Road, please click on this link

If you haven’t yet submitted comments/feedback on the new scheme, please do so online here

Please note: you will need to click on Next to complete the feedback form.  David and I are very keen that everyone fills this in.  Among the concerns that were brought to my attention on Saturday were the lack of attention given to cyclists, the narrowing of Old High Street at its junction with London Road in respect of the advent of Waitrose, safety concerns about the London Road/Windmill Road junction, and the removal of the subway at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.  People were also concerned about the lack of planting in London Road

Tree management in the City

We’re often asked questions about the way in which trees are managed in our ward, and particularly in Bury Knowle Park, so I have asked for a copy of the City’s operational policy on managing trees under City control and posted it onto a page called Tree policy in the centre toolbar for your information.  Hope you find it useful!