‘Why was memorial tree cut down?’

Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet, has asked Leeds City Council to explain why one of the cherished memorial trees in Scholes was cut down, without warning or consultation with local people.

Many villagers were outraged when the nearly 100 year old horse chestnut tree, officially listed among the nation’s war memorials, was first thinned, then completely felled, despite a preservation order.

In an e-mail to the city council’s forestry department Mr Shelbrooke recalls that as one of three councillors representing Scholes before he was elected an MP he ‘worked very hard with local residents’ to support a campaign to have the memorial trees in Scholes protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

This was initially turned down but, following a persistent campaign by villagers, the city council agreed to impose an order covering all the commemorative trees.

The campaign was led by Scholes resident and former parish councillor George Hall, who later persuaded officials at the Imperial War Museum to add the trees to the national register of war memorials.

Planted along both sides of Station Road the row of mature trees commemorates the sacrifice of men from the village who lost their lives in two world wars.

Mr Shelbrooke has sought an assurance from the city council that the felled tree will be replaced by another horse chestnut and asks to be kept informed about when the work will be done.

However, the council’s forestry experts believe another two memorial trees have been afflicted by horse chestnut canker and may need felling on safety grounds. They have suggested planting hornbeam trees instead.

At April’s meeting of Barwick and Scholes Parish Council its Chairman, Coun Ben Hogan, said the city council’s Forestry Manager had apologised for cutting down the tree without observing an agreement to advise the parish council or villagers in advance.

“He said he was new to the post and didn’t know the significance of the tree but he promised it would not happen again without proper consultation.”