Residents are outraged at a council’s ‘ludicrous’ plans to chop down four apple trees because the fruit which falls to the ground is a ‘tripping hazard’.
The large trees have sat in the heart of Westwood in Wiltshire for over 30 years and the apples are eaten by locals who also use them to make cider and jam.
But four of the five trees have now been earmarked to be cut down after the fallen fruit was deemed a health and safety risk.
The trees line a footpath and the local parish council has apparently said people might stumble on the fruit – making them dangerous.
Nearly 200 people have signed a petition against the proposals with organisers saying the trees face the chop because the fruit was deemed a tripping risk.
Villager David McQueen, 56, who launched the petition in November, has condemned the plans to destroy the four mature apple trees labelling it ‘eco vandalism’.
Mr McQueen said: ‘They are fantastic trees and so far over 150 people have signed my petition to save them, which is amazing considering the size of the village.
‘This is the last chance to save these beautiful trees that are a resource for the children and residents of the village, for birds and insects and which provide habitat for wildlife.
‘Cutting them down would be an act of eco vandalism. Westwood Parish Council want to cut down four of Westwood Park’s apple trees.
‘These are located close to the swings; one is very large, but all are mature and produce a crop of apples each year.
‘Some of these apples are edible, some are used by residents for making jam and cider, all are a source of food for birds and insects.
‘The trees help combat climate change and chopping them down means less CO2 is absorbed, habitat for wildlife is destroyed and a source of pleasure for adults and children is reduced to four stumps.
‘The council argues that these trees are ‘self seeded’ and because they’re not planned, should be removed.
‘They have argued the apples are a tripping hazard, but this seems a massive overreaction to chop down healthy trees because of a few apples on the path.’
Mr McQueen added he was unaware if a complaint had been made by someone tripping on an apple or if it was flagged by the survey.
A comment on the petition from Diana Lindsey said: ‘These trees were planted by the Parish Council over 30 years ago for the people of Westwood to gather the fruit and for the wildlife to also benefit.
‘It is ridiculous to chop them down on the pathetic excuse that someone might trip over the fallen apples.
‘People can look where they are going and the trees can be left to continue to help protect the planet.’
Another petitioner, Polly, wrote: ‘In a world where we need to be thinking about planting more trees and reducing emissions, the reasoning behind cutting down these trees that are causing no harm seems ludicrous.’
Janine Sparks added: ‘Please do not cut down these trees! Put a sign up instead warning people to watch their step!!!!
‘We need more trees, not less, and an apple tree provides food for people and wildlife.’
‘My little boy loves picking apples up from this tree on our way to the park,’ Emma Wilkinson added.
Roger Coleman, clerk to Westwood Parish Council, said that after a ‘lengthy discussion’ at their meeting on December 6 they have resolved to invite Nick Cranston, of Acer Tree Surgeons, to take action ‘in respect’ of a Scots pine close to the play area and the four apple trees in the park.
Mr McQueen added that he still doesn’t understand the council’s reasons for chopping the trees down.
He said: ‘After speaking to two members of the Parish Council extensively for half an hour, I still didn’t understand a logical reason for their decision to cut down the apple trees.
‘The only reason they gave was an overhanging branch of one of the tree’s bushes was dropping apples onto the path.
‘Another reason the council stated was the trees were ‘self-seeded’ but actually this is not the case, the apple trees were planted by the council years ago.
‘Having heard all the arguments the community members gave for not cutting the trees down – protecting biodiversity, supporting local cider brewers, our current climate crisis and so much more – the council had made their decision to destroy the trees anyway.
‘I now believe we may have a chance at saving these beautiful trees, but only because of all the negative publicity.’