Council contractors bark up wrong tree five times over in Banchory wood

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Careless contractors chopped down five protected 150-year-old Scots Pines in a woodland in Banchory instead of trimming dead branches off them.

Aberdeenshire Council employed tree surgeons to carry out some work in Upper Bellswood and it is understood they were contracted to fell dead trees and cut rotten branches off others.

Residents of Bellswood Crescent and Lawson Avenue, which back onto the woods, were “shocked” and “upset” last Wednesday to find that the surgeons accidentally cut down several Scots Pines instead of deadheading them and cutting down dead trees.

Locals told us the pines are protected and the wood was bequeathed to the people of Banchory.

Aberdeenshire Council said there was “a misunderstanding” by the contractor.

One resident has sent a strongly-worded letter to the council’s chief executive, Jim Savege, which has been signed by around 34 locals who are all concerned about the future of Upper Bellswood and angered by the trees being cut down.

Another resident told us: “There has been an outcry. Everyone is shocked, upset and outraged that healthy, beautiful, native and protected Scots Pines have been cut down.

“In the past when work has been done letters have been put through the doors of residents whose homes back on to the woods.

“It was a big shock that they were doing that kind of work without any mention of it.

“I knew something was going on because I could hear the chainsaws all day.

“A lot of us went in the woods on Wednesday afternoon and saw the devastation.

“They logged the pine and took away the main tree trunks, which all looked perfectly healthy.

“The next day my neighbour and I saw they were in the wood again. We thought they were about to chop another tree down and asked ‘why are you cutting down healthy trees?

“The reaction back was they had been told to deadwood that tree.

“We asked why they cut down the others. They kept telling us they were diseased. They weren’t diseased.

“When I moved here six years ago you couldn’t see from one side to the other and now the woodland is so sparse you can see right through it.

“There used to be a massive red squirrel population in the woods but it has declined and I think that is because their habitat is being chopped down.

“We’d like a formal apology from the council. It has upset a lot of people, not just those who live nearby but others who walk through the woods on a regular basis. We want to be informed like we used to be.

“The five trees that have been cut down need to be replanted as well as more trees to make it more like a woodland again. We live here because we want to be near the woods.”

A third resident told us: “People are really angry about it. Some have gone to the police.

“The council is not looking after the wood properly.

“I was told by the council that the contractors were meant to be deadheading the trees. I would like to see the paperwork that was given to the contractors.

“When you look at the wood they’ve cut down it’s just perfect and pristine.

“It’s like a battlefield. They’ve just left everything and not tidied up.”

Graham Wall, landscape services manager at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “There appears to have been a misunderstanding on the part of the contractor and replacement planting will be carried out in the very near future.”

Residents believed three pines had been felled, however after getting in touch with Forestry Commission Scotland, who came out to investigate the incident, they discovered five trees had been cut down.

A Commission spokesperson said: “We are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the felling of pine trees at a local woodland near Banchory.

“We have still to speak to several parties so we are not in a position to offer any further comment at this time.”