Urgent: help to protect recreation ground trees

Two beautiful mature specimen Norway Maples beside Bridge Tennis Club.

Two mature specimen Norway Maples beside Bridge Tennis Club.

Bridge Parish Council have recently decided to ‘pollard’ two Norway Maple trees on the recreation ground following a complaint from the tennis club who say the trees are causing too much shade and creating a moss problem on the courts.

BridgeNature.org does not generally make arguments against the maintenance pruning of trees, because usually that maintenance is for the benefit of the trees and all concerned, but in this case we believe the pollarding of two fine mature specimens of Norway Maple is not in the interest of the trees and would serve no real purpose other than to reduce leaf fall onto the courts. There is little moss on the courts and actually less moss present under or near the two maple trees than there is on other sections of the court which are nowhere near the trees; so there is no particular reason to assume these trees are to blame.

If the trees are reducing light we accept that reasonable pruning and maintenance work may be required, but pollarding is an extreme and unwarranted measure.

Pollarding is the practice of cutting off all the branches of a tree to hold and control it at a specific height, in this case 50% off current height; it permanently alters the shape of a tree so that it looks artificially stunted, which of course it is. For many months after pollarding the tree will be just a stump with a few short stubby branches off it. All the wildlife, including bats, owls, woodpeckers and a variety of other birds and insects which live in these trees will have lost their homes and some may never return. Pollarding can be a practical method of regularly controlling height and spread of trees in inner city areas, but it looks ugly, distorts future growth and is a very crude method of pruning a mature specimen tree like those on the recreation ground which are there to enhance the visual appeal of a public space in a Conservation Area.

Dover District Council says of ‘Amenity Pollarding’:
“Unless there are essential reasons, it should not be initiated on a tree, except as formative pruning when young. “

The New Forest National Park Authority says this of pollarding:
“Mature trees are generally unsuitable for pollarding as they lack the regrowth required…

Surrey County Council states:
“The effects of pollarding are potentially catastrophic to trees if applied inappropriately and can permanently ruin valuable specimen trees {…} Pollarding is not a fix for a large tree causing shade to adjacent property.”

Bridge Parish Council did not take any professional advice on which method of pruning should be used; they voted to support the idea of pollarding as opposed to much less drastic and more aesthetically sensitive methods of pruning, on the basis of a cost comparison. Their decision must now go to Canterbury City Council for approval and local opinion may prove significant.

BridgeNature.org is not campaigning against pruning these trees, but we seek a more sensitive and appropriate method than crude pollarding in a Conservation Area; crown reduction is a sensible alternative. We urge readers to comment against this proposal.


Following the public respose to this campaign, we can confirm that Bridge Parish Council is to reconsider the matter at the next meeting on 10th December and it is not too late for you to express your views. We would welcome your support. Please write to: clerk@bridgevillage.org.uk 


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