Fred furious after council chops down late wife’s trees

Fred Whitcombe (79) next to the remains of the trees that were cut down
Fred Whitcombe (79) next to the remains of the trees that were cut down
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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PENSIONER Fred Whitcombe used to enjoy gazing at the leylandii conifer trees in his garden because they reminded him of his late wife Dorothy.

But now that pleasure has been taken away from the 79-year-old after Portsmouth City Council ordered the removal of nine of the 11 trees – because it saw them as a health and safety hazard.

Mr Whitcombe was stunned when he woke up one morning to find council contractors hacking down the 25ft high trees he planted with his wife in 1981.

The couple decided to put them around the borders of the garden in Radnor Street, Southsea, because Dorothy loved nature and they wanted some privacy.

After Dorothy lost her battle with cancer 17 years ago, Mr Whitcombe saw the trees as a reminder of their life together.

The city council had the power to remove the trees because Mr Whitcombe lives in a one-bedroom council flat.

He shares the garden with a neighbour who lives in a flat above his. But Mr Whitcombe is left wondering why he wasn’t consulted about the removal of the trees beforehand.

He said: ‘It’s disgusting that I didn’t even receive a letter to say the council was planning to do this.

‘I loved gazing and looking after those trees because they reminded me of Dorothy.

‘Now I haven’t got anything to remember her by.

‘I have lots of photos of our time together but that’s not the same.

‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the council chopping the trees down.’

Andrew Thomas, area housing manager for city south, said: ‘We are very sorry for the understandable upset removing the trees has caused Mr Whitcombe.

‘Unfortunately the roots of the nine leylandii conifer trees were seriously damaging the path in the communal gardens, the public path, and drains near the properties on Radnor Street.

‘The roots had actually lifted part of the path and were causing a serious trip hazard.

‘They were also damaging the manhole and inspection chamber for the drains, so the work had to be carried out.

‘Unfortunately, the staff involved had not been aware of Mr Whitcombe’s history with the trees and I have since contacted him directly to make a full apology, which he has accepted.’