National Trust tree-felling activities have been criticised as ‘health and safety paranoia’ after the Trust felled 21 trees at Kingston Lacy in Dorset.

Tree surgeons have started chopping down the 170-year-old beeches after experts warned the National Trust that they were at the end of their life and may pose a danger to the passing cars.

Rodney Legg, chairman of the British Open Spaces Society, said: ‘I am aware of many beech trees that are 200 years older than these ones, so you could say that these are healthy and of robust middle age.

‘I think this is health and safety paranoia on the part of the National Trust. Who’s to say that any tree in Britain is safe from falling down?

‘We may as well start demolishing houses that are built next to roads as it could be argued a tile or brick could fly off in high winds and kill someone.’

In 1835, William John Bankes planted an avenue of 731 beeches down the B3082 at Kingston Lacy; 365 trees on one side and 366 on the other to represent the days of a normal year and a leap year.

The National Trust has felled a couple of trees each year since around 1970 for safety reasons, but, this year, is felling 21, leaving 605 remaining.

Peter Samson, head warden at the Kingston Lacy estate, said: ‘We monitor the beech trees once a month and then a full assessment is carried out bi-annually. We have just had a full assessment and the recommendation was to fell 21 trees and cut dead wood and diseased branches off a further 70.

‘Due to climate change and the increasing demand of health and safety we have to make a decision to remove them. The last time a full tree came down naturally was following the 1989 storms but branches with diameters of 18-inches have come down since then.’

The National Trust will replace the felled trees at Kingston Lacy with hornbeams.

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