Anger after trees removed to ‘reduce risk of flooding’

Picture: Paul Fishwick

A RESIDENT says he is furious after a row of trees was felled in Winnersh recently – and he fears the M4 embankment could be left unstable.

However, Highways England says the work was necessary to reduce the risk of flooding.

On Thursday, January 7, a number of mature trees near Woodward Close were cut down as part of the smart motorway works.

Now, residents are concerned it will have consequences for the environment, safety, and could negatively impact their day to day lives.

Ben Couzens, who lives on Woodward Close, says he was frustrated when he heard the news.

“Locally, we’ve lost so many mature trees over the last couple of years, especially along the motorway,” he said.

According to the resident, this line of trees was vital for a number of reasons.

“With the M4 elevated, they provided a bit of safety barrier in case a vehicle came tumbling down off the road,” Mr Couzens explained.

“They also stopped a bit of the noise, and probably helped with air pollution.”

The resident is now also worried about flash floods, saying that without the trees there is a risk the M4 embankment could become unstable.

“There are a lot of reasons the trees are important,” he explained.

“While there may be good explanations for cutting them down, it still feels pretty devastating.”

However, a spokesperson from Highways England says that residents should not worry about the work’s safety implications, and that embankment has been reinforced with sheet piling and created to withstand heavy rainfall.

Paul Fishwick, ward councillor for Winnersh, was also surprised to hear about the trees being cut down.

“A while ago, Highways England told [Wokingham] Borough Council about planting new trees along the embankments and resurfacing,” the councillor explained.

“But nothing at all was said about removing any of the existing trees, which have been retained from the trees taken out two years ago.

“It was a bit of a shock to see the trees suddenly cut down.”

He says that while a small number of mature trees remain on the site, the majority have been removed and it could take 20 years for saplings to mature and form a new barrier.

“We should be making an effort to retain the existing ones,” he added.

In response to residents’ concerns, a spokesperson from Highways England says the company understands the value of the trees and how important they are to the local community.

“We only remove them when absolutely necessary,” the spokesperson explained.

“We needed to remove some semi-mature trees near Woodward Close in Winnersh to improve drainage and reduce the risk of flooding.

“The work was in line with our planning permission for upgrading the M4 and we have planted a mixture of young tree species which, in time, will help to screen the motorway from nearby houses.”

According to Highways England, it is highly unlikely any more trees will need to be cleared in the area.

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