City Council defends itself from critics: 'We plant 200 trees a year'

Public footpath at South Mall, Cork outside 97, South Mall (the former Savings Bank) and The Maldron Hotel. Two new trees have been planted to replace a number of trees which were removed. Picture: Larry Cummins

Cork City Council says it plants around 200 trees a year, amid criticism that the local authority is cutting down plantlife to the detriment of the city centre’s environs.

Members of the public have taken to social media in recent months to highlight examples of trees being removed from the city centre, with many critical of instances where the tree locations are then paved over.

Twitter users have documented instances on the South Mall, in particular, as examples of the practice that, they say, is damaging the image of one of the city’s main thoroughfares.

Responding to the online criticism last month, City Hall tweeted that two trees were removed from South Mall on health and safety grounds.

A spokesperson for the Council’s Recreation, Parks, and Sport Directorate told the Irish Examiner that all trees removed from South Mall were taken away on health and safety grounds due to trunk decay and root damage.

A total of four trees have been removed from the South Mall in the past two years, two trees outside No.97 20 months ago, one outside No.20 five months ago, and another outside No 16 two months ago,” the spokesperson said.

“Two trees were replanted outside No 97 and an additional two will be planted in 2019 if possible.

"It should be noted that there are 27 trees on the South Mall section between Parnell Place and Cook Street,” the spokesperson said.

City Hall said finding suitable locations to replant along South Mall is difficult due to the number of underground services.

“On average, the Parks Department has to remove approximately 15 trees per month across the city, either blown down in winds or removed on health and safety grounds following inspection, due to damaged roots, disease, decay etc,” the spokesperson said.

“We plant approximately 200 trees each year."

Independent city councillor Kieran McCarthy said he believes the local authority needs to do better in communicating the work it does in replanting trees.

However, he said central Government should have stepped in to assist the City Council in fixing the damage caused by Storm Ophelia in 2017, when 500 trees were lost in the city and were never replaced.

He said the Recreation, Parks, and Sport Directorate works on a shoestring budget, but the council should be promoting the positive work it does despite its financial limitations.

"The message needs to change. We don’t celebrate the biodiversity and natural heritage of the city,” Cllr McCarthy said.

He said he will bring ideas such as Biodiversity Day and Plant A Tree Day - concepts suggested by members of the public on Twitter - to the Council for consideration.

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