Shaun Keenan (Local Democracy Reporter)
Campaigners urge council to U-turn decision and save ‘1200-year-old’ trees from the chop
Photo: Donal McCann Photography
Local residents and environmental groups are urging a local council to reconsider their decision to cut down trees more than 1200-years-old in Co Antrim.
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council are planning on axing 20 mature trees from Killeaton Fields in Derriaghy over health and safety concerns.
However, campaigners are urging the council to reverse their decision due to the “dramatic negative impact on the wildlife and biodiversity”.
A survey of families directly bordering the fields found that 87% supported a less drastic approach, according to the campaigners.
They have requested that if the trees are to be removed that it should be done in a phased way with replacement planting over a period of years to prevent damage to the environment.
Joan Agnew has lived in Killeaton estate since the 1960s, she said:
“After ratepayers contacted the council about this issue we learned of other plans they had for the field that they had not even bothered to consult with us about.
“There is a history here with the Council attempting to force their plans onto us, but the generations who came before us have always protected this area and wanted the field to remain as an open space.
“It is our duty to ensure the beauty of the area is protected for future generations.”
Grainne Kielty, who has also lived near the fields for the past three decades, wants the council to work with the local residents to find a solution.
“Our family have lived here for 32 years and the main reason we chose to live here is the field and the trees,” Ms Kielty said.
“What happens to the field impacts directly on all of the residents. We are not against improvements but they must be done in consultation with those who it will impact on, and that is us the local residents.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the council said they were “committed to delivering the best outcome for the community”.
In a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, LCCC said:
“The council is committed to protecting and enhancing our valued outdoor spaces. We are currently planning improvement works in Killeaton Open Space with the agreement of the local community.
“We are also engaging with them on the possible removal of trees due to health and safety issues highlighted by a recent tree survey, the development of a new path to improve wheelchair access and planting a wildflower meadow to enhance biodiversity.
“Council representatives met with the local community on 2nd September and engagement is ongoing. Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council is committed to delivering the best outcome for the community, whilst preserving the natural habitat.”
Patrick Cregg, a former Director of the Woodland Trust, said the local authority should take a “cautious and managed approach”.
He added: “This appears to be rather drastic action by the Council. These trees are an important element of the landscape, reducing noise pollution and helping to absorb water as the area is prone to flooding during wet spells.”
“This much cherished and well used open space is a source of pride and a valued resource in an area that has seen extensive new housing over the last decade. I would suggest that a more cautious and managed approach can be taken in respect of the trees at Killeaton fields.”