Anger at plans to axe Havant trees for blocking sign

OBSCURED The trees cover the Havant Leisure Centre sign
OBSCURED The trees cover the Havant Leisure Centre sign
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A LEISURE centre wants to chop down two healthy trees – because they block its sign from view.

Havant Leisure Centre has submitted an application to Havant Borough Council to get rid of the Ash and London Plane trees as they obscure the main sign when they are in leaf.

CLEAR The sign before the trees grew

CLEAR The sign before the trees grew

The trees were donated by the anti-smoking charity ASH in the late 1980s to promote health.

The bid was granted by the council’s cabinet without consulting the public, which has angered some councillors and environmentalists who say the sign should be moved rather than the trees felled.

An extraordinary scrutiny board meeting has now been called by Councillor Andy Lenaghan to debate the decision.

He is supported by Councillors Brendan Gibb-Gray, Yvonne Weeks and Faith Ponsonby.

He said: ‘The council are custodians of trees within the borough and these trees are no different to any other.

‘If these trees were on public land a Tree Preservation Order could have been applied to them using the guideline used by our arborist.

‘To cut them down planning permission would have to have been applied for and the public made aware of the application and no doubt delegations would have been received.’

He said he felt the application had been ‘hushed up’ and has called for public consultation on the issue.

Frances Jannaway, volunteer co-ordinator of Havant Tree Wardens, said many people were unhappy with the decision.

‘They are perfectly healthy, there’s nothing wrong with them. Because they cover over the sign some of the year Havant Borough Council has agreed they can be felled.

‘We feel the leisure centre should just move the sign but they say it’s too old and will break.

‘But the council recently gave them a grant for new signage. Why can’t they just use that money?’

In a letter to the council Vivien Barber, a leisure centre user, said felling the trees would be a ‘destructive and pointless act’.

The council’s arborist was against the application but the service manager in charge of marketing said in a report to the cabinet that the leisure centre could potentially be losing businesses if the sign is obscured.

The scrutiny meeting will be held December 21 at midday in the Public Service Plaza.