Tree inspections after toddler's death

PUBLISHED: 14:01 08 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:42 03 March 2010

NEW rigorous tree inspection rules in the wake of the death of toddler Benjamin Davey will cost taxpayers more than £45,000 a year, it was revealed today.

NEW rigorous tree inspection rules in the wake of the death of toddler Benjamin Davey will cost taxpayers more than £45,000 a year, it was revealed today.

On the advice of the Health and Safety Executive, councillors have agreed a much more thorough inspection system to try to avoid a similar tragic accident.

Three-year-old Benjamin was killed when he was crushed by a 23-metre high common ash tree when it was blown down by gale-force winds in The Grove woodland at Felixstowe last October.

Benjamin, of Looe Road, Old Felixstowe, died from severe head injuries.

The tree which landed on his pushchair as his mum Veronica Deri took him for a walk was later found to be suffering from honey fungus disease.

Although all trees were at risk of being toppled by the 80mph winds, the ash's roots had been eaten away by the fungus.

Suffolk Coastal council, owner of the wood, has now agreed to put in place new rules for the care of its 21,000 trees and these are expected to be adopted nationally very soon.

But the more detailed inspections to keep woodlands safe will have a cost – estimated initially at £45,400 but possibly much higher, and the true cost will only be known once the first year's work has been completed.

Previously the council's inspections of its trees was done quarterly and involved countryside rangers walking through wooded areas and assessing the trees.

Now trees will be zoned depending on the amount of use of the leisure area with the most-used areas inspected once a year and less-used areas every two years.

But instead of a quick look, every tree will be thoroughly analysed from base to crown to look for tell-tale signs of disease and damage, the need for a tree surgeon to take action, and calculate how each will fair in the year ahead.

A professional will look for cavities, deadwood, weak stems, fungal activity, dieback, wounds, any storm damage, foliage problems, and root exposure.

Members of the cabinet discussed the new arrangements in secret. Minutes say the procedure has already been tested and the HSE was happy with it.

It is planned to review the arrangements again in spring 2005 when they will have been working for nearly two years.

Council solicitor Hilary Slater said: "Suffolk Coastal has always been committed to encouraging public access to the countryside and works hard to ensure that all our facilities, whether they are sports centres, play areas or woodlands, can be enjoyed safely.

"We have been working closely with the Health and Safety Executive to test and develop new procedures that we have now agreed and are being introduced. We expect these will be followed by councils across Britain."

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