Costly Telford Christmas tree deaths put down to lack of watering

“Insufficient watering” led to the death of two Christmas trees, just over a year after the “permanent” festive firs were planted.

A Christmas tree on the corner of Gatcombe Way and Castle Farm Way, Priorslee, Telford - one of two parish-funded trees killed by "insufficient watering".
A Christmas tree on the corner of Gatcombe Way and Castle Farm Way, Priorslee, Telford - one of two parish-funded trees killed by "insufficient watering".

St Georges and Priorslee Parish Council planted six new trees in autumn 2019 at a combined cost of £14,000, but will now have to order replacements for two in Priorslee.

Members said the pair had been neglected, partly due to a staffing change and partly because of the coronavirus lockdown, but chairman Richard Overton said a recent agreement to share environmental staff with a nearby parish would ensure the replacements would be regularly hydrated.

Councillors Ian and Veronica Fletcher, who represent Priorslee at parish and borough level, contributed £4,000 from their Telford and Wrekin discretionary ward funding towards the planting, and said they were frustrated at the money being “wasted”.

In September 2019, St Georges and Priorslee parish councillors agreed to pay Majestic Trees £13,836 for the six abies concolor conifers and earmark £1,500 annually “to cover watering costs for the early stages of planting and ongoing maintenance”, meeting minutes say.

“Councillors Veronica Fletcher and Ian Fletcher confirmed £4,000 of the Telford and Wrekin Councillors’ Pride Fund will be contributed,” the report adds.

Minutes of a later meeting say members accepted a £191 quote from Zurich Insurance to cover the trees and the Priorslee Clock.

At a meeting this week, following the death of the two trees on the corners of Gatcombe Way and Collett Way, Councillor Robert Cadman asked whether a stronger variety of tree was available.

“I know the two that didn’t make it are slightly exposed, but things do grow around there,” he said.

“I’m wondering if we can get a different breed that is perhaps hardier?”

He said he did not support getting single-year replacements.

“If we’ve got one that’s properly set it does pay for itself in four or five years or so,” Councillor Cadman added.

Councillor Overton agreed, saying the original six trees were bought in the expectation they would be permanent, and this was more sustainable than replacing “tree after tree”.

Councillor Veronica Fletcher said: “Ian and I gave £4,000 from our councillors’ Pride Fund for these trees, and I’m really concerned that they have died."

Parish clerk Victoria Brain had advised that it would not be possible to claim against Majestic Trees, as “insufficient watering” invalidated the guarantee.

Councillor Cadman said: “I think it would be fraud, because we didn’t look after them!

“I think we dropped the ball a bit, with lockdown and change of staff.”

Earlier in the meeting, clerk Victoria Brain reported that Wrockwardine Wood and Trench Parish Council had agreed to share the use of an environmental operative with St Georges and Priorslee.

Councillor Overton said they should ensure the trees are watered as part of that agreement.

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