NEARLY 50 Minehead residents attended a meeting to hear about Somerset County Council plans to remove a number of the town’s trees in the coming months.

In fact, so many people turned up at the Minehead Town Council offices in Summerland Road on Tuesday evening, that the decision was taken to move the meeting to Minehead Middle School.

A lot of interest had been garnered after speculation spread on social media that there were plans in place to remove a number of trees in The Avenue in Minehead.

However, Karin Harwood, Somerset County Council’s service manager for engineering programmes, set the record straight on the matter, saying that although Somerset County Council did have plans to remove 11 trees in Minehead, only one would be taken from The Avenue.

Mrs Harwood explained: “We only remove trees if they are dead, diseased or dying as a matter of health and safety.

“Inspections have been carried out by our specially-trained staff and, while tree removal is regrettable, it is not a decision taken lightly.”

The list of trees includes one on The Avenue outside The Hairy Dog pub, two in Queen’s Road, one in Irnham Road, one in King Edward Road, one outside Minehead Middle School, two on Northfield Road, one in Paganel Road, one for Marshfield Road and one on Periton Way.

This is The West Country:

Somerset County Council has duty of care for 21,041 highway trees, 575 of which are in Minehead.

Mrs Harwood said several other trees were being monitored every six months, including several trees along Townsend and Ponsford Road that had been subject to vandalism.

However, residents were upset when Mrs Harwood admitted Somerset County Council does not have a policy to replace trees that need to be taken down for health and safety reasons, saying this is largely to do with working with a limited budget.

Despite this, the town council, district council and residents and businesses are welcome to fund replacement trees, but they must look after them for the first year before Somerset County Council will assume responsibility for them.

Mayor of Minehead Cllr Sandra Slade said: “Lovely though our trees are, if they are being removed for safety reasons I think we have to go with it.

“But I think it is a good thing we have so many people here tonight who clearly care about this issue.

“It would cost approximately £2,400 to replace these trees; if the council take that on as well we may have to put the precept up again which we do not want to do, however, we could contribute.

“I wonder if it would be possible to set up a Public Tree Fund which could be used to help fund replacements.”