A trio of majestic horse chestnut trees are being felled along Birr's Oxmantown Mall this week.
Offaly County Council began the work on Monday morning in a bid to address what was described as “the immediate safety concerns” with the trees after they were found to be in “a state of irreversible decline”.
In a letter to the residents, John Mitchell, District Engineer with Birr Municipal District, wrote that in recent months, concerns were raised by members of the public in relation to the condition of the trees along Oxmantown Mall, some of which appear to be in what is described as a “deteriorated state”. To address this concern, Offaly County Council commissioned a survey of the Mall's trees, and the resulting survey report recommended that specific measures be carried out with the interest of public safety in mind.
The work is being undertaken this week on one tree located at the end where St Brendan's Church of Ireland is located. A second tree is being removed near Birr Theatre and Arts Centre while the third tree is being removed towards the end of Oxmantown Mall, close to the gates of Birr Castle.
Mr Mitchell continued: “The purpose of this work is to address the immediate safety concerns with these trees. This will require the removal of three trees, which are in a state of irreversible decline, and will require remedial pruning of other trees.”
Speaking to the 'Tribune' on Monday, Mr Mitchell said the felled trees were dying and had fungus; therefore, they could have fallen or died at any moment. And so, with such a short life expectancy, the decision was taken to remove them, according to the District Engineer.
It's understood that one resident was actually concerned one of the trees, which was leaning considerably, was going to fall onto his property.
Speaking about the replacement species, Mr Mitchell outlined the plan is to replace the trees with something “reasonably mature” so there wouldn’t be too stark a contrast with the remaining trees. It's understood the species being considered are oak or oriental plane trees, similar to those already on John's Mall and would have a lovely canopy spread but the roots would grow down more. According to Mr Mitchell, Lord Rosse was also consulted on the issue as it was his family who had planted the iconic trees along the Mall. Unfortunately, the roots of horse chestnut trees tend to spread and this is the case in Oxmantown Mall. Many of the roots have spread through the small wall that runs along the mall.
The work is due to be completed this Friday, December 20 with plans to replace these trees in the “very near future” as soon as an appropriate species has been selected.