THEY call it ‘wanton vandalism’.
Angry Kirkburton residents can’t understand why Kirklees Council cut down an endangered tree at the heart of their community.
The rare black poplar tree, over 100ft high, stood on a path off North Road near Burton Dean Park for over 100 years.
It is thought there is only one other of its kind left in the whole of West Yorkshire.
The tree was subject to a tree protection order which is designed to make sure scarce trees are not lost or damaged needlessly.
Robert Walters and Tim Scott from Burton Environment Group say the ‘magnificent’ tree was perfectly healthy before it was chopped down to a stump.
But Kirklees Council say it was a danger to the public and therefore exempt from the protection order.
The tree was felled without any consultation with the local environmental group or residents.
Mr Walters told the Examiner: “This is another example of the council not really considering local people’s views.
“The black poplar was a very important part of the local environment.
“It was the tallest living tree in Kirkburton – it was probably the oldest living thing in Kirkburton.
“People who passed it could not help but be awed by this superb specimen of a locally rare species of tree.”
Burton Environment Group said they have maintained Burton Dean Park with financial assistance from Kirkburton parish council and grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Mr Walters said: “Kirklees have been more or less a passive partner in all of this.
“However, if what they’ve done with our poplar is typical of what they do when they finally spring into action, then maybe it’s just as well they remain passive.”
Mr Scott added: “We have not been properly consulted with on this.
“It is our heritage, and there is no going back now – what’s done is done.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “The tree was removed because of safety concerns.
“Falling dead wood had already caused damage to a car and this tree had a history of dropping branches into the lane.
“Poplars are known to be brittle and this type of tree is relatively short-lived in comparison to other hard wood trees.”
Adrian Helm, chairman of the International Tree Foundation for the north, said the black poplar was an endangered species.
He said: “I have only ever heard of one other in West Yorkshire – and I think that’s in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
“They are an endangered tree and it is very important that they are preserved and looked after before they die out.
“It is especially important because they are native to the country.
“The black poplar is not just any ordinary tree – there would have to be a very good reason for cutting one down.”