By News Reporters
Camden Council has allowed Fitzrovia’s best-loved public garden to be vandalised by a group of unsupervised workers who were turned loose with saws and tools to prune trees and bushes.
Crabtree Fields is a small public open space squeezed between Charlotte Street and Whitfield Street and was created as a result of a campaign by local people in the the 1980s. It is very popular with both residents and those who work in Fitzrovia.
Camden Council had agreed with the Friends of Open Spaces in Fitzrovia, which meets to liaise with the council over parks and gardens, to carry out some maintenance of the garden before new planting could take place. Some new bushes were to be planted and there needed to be some pruning and clearance of the bedding.
But at the beginning of March residents were alarmed to find that a 25-year-old holly bush had been hacked down as well as a birch tree, and a number of other bushes and shrubs.
Over the space of a few hours workers had arrived at the gardens, set to work, then left having destroyed nearly three decades of cherished greenery. Many of the trees had been there since the creation of the gardens and had been specially chosen by local people.
Max Neufeld, chair of the Friends of Open Spaces in Fitzrovia, described the way in which the work to cut back some of the planting as “an act of vandalism” and should never have been allowed to happen.
Neufeld told Fitzrovia News: “It is self-evident that this work was carried out by untrained people who were unsupervised. You can tell by the way the stumps have been left that the trunks of trees and bushes have been cut halfway through then literally torn down. This is a disaster for the gardens and its biodiversity.”
Neufeld added: “We need to know from Camden what the contractor’s obligations are under the terms of their contract.”
Camden Council employ a contractor to carry out maintenance of the its open spaces but over the last year the council has been increasingly been short of money. Some maintenance of the parks has been done by using the government’s community payback scheme, where offenders are put to work to do things like cleaning and clearing of dead foliage. The council no longer attends the Friends meetings even though they were set up by the council. Instead council officers liaise with representatives of the Friends group on an ad hoc basis.
Camden Council told Fitzrovia News that when discussions were held with Mr Neufeld from the Friends group the holly bush wasn’t outlined as subject to any works but it was ‘hard pruned’ by Fountains, the Council’s contractor. The parks department say the bush shouldn’t be adversely affected by the pruning, and should in time grow back in better shape.
They admitted the cutting of the birch tree wasn’t satisfactory and they asked Fountains to go back, and the tree has now been cut closer to the ground.
In a statement a council spokesman said:
“We really value Camden’s open spaces and the contribution of Friends groups. In this case, we have worked closely with representatives from the Friends to ensure that Crabtree fields remains a valuable asset for local residents.
“Officers from the Council met with the Friends group to agree a variety of shrub planting that would take place along with the removal of a number of self-sown trees. The Birch tree that was removed was done so as it was competing for light with other more established trees in the area. This tree has been replaced with beech hedging to match the rest of the front boundary.
“We are sorry that an established holly bush was subject to what is known as ‘hard pruning’. This is recommended for bringing older specimens back to shape and while it may appear harsh when first carried out such pruning promotes more vigorous growth over time. The concerns of the Friends group have been noted and two large holly bushes have been planted in the field to fill the gaps while those that have been subject to hard pruning regrow.
“The works carried out by our contractors will allow the requested new plants to establish themselves without being overshadowed or crowded.”
One of the Friends group told Fitzrovia News, “Hard pruning is a great way of making savaged sound positive. But we have got the replanting done and some nice new plants to enjoy”.