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Standoff over cutting down trees on historic street


STAND OFF John’s Row/Barrack Hill residents complained when council officials showed up to cut down eight native trees along the street last Friday morning.  Pic: Conor McKeown

Áine Ryan

A standoff has developed about trees on one of heritage town’s Westport oldest streets, John’s Row, some of whose houses date back to the foundation of the town and its planned building in the middle of the 18th century by architect William Leeson. The historic street is named after John Browne, the first Earl of Altamont, of Westport House, who employed the famous architect.
Apparently, Mayo County Council wants to cut down eight of the ten native trees – comprising horse chestnut, ash and sycamore to ensure public safety on the narrow, uneven and dangerous pathways.  
However, according to one incensed resident on the street, Paul Donnelly, there was no proper written notification given about the plan.
He told The Mayo News yesterday: “A couple of Mayo County Council officials called to say they were planning to cut down the trees. Myself and my wife are relatively new here so we thought it was a done deal until a neighbour blocked the entrance to the road last Friday morning. Three gardaí arrived during the stand-off but left after they were advised that there had not been a proper street closure order published.”
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Cllr Peter Flynn clarified the county council’s position regarding the project: “The council had a tree expert look at them and the advice was that the wrong trees were planted in the first place and that something more suitable should be planted. The path in places is too narrow for buggies or mobility scooters, so an alternative needs to be found. The paths could be replaced as they are but would be damaged [from root movements] again. It has been at least 15 years since the paths on John’s Row were done last. Doing nothing is also an option but how many more falls do we need to have to address the problem.”
Flynn explained that ‘under departmental regulations the money [allocated for the project] has to be spent by November or it is lost permanently’.
“So I would hate to think we have to wait another 15 years to address the severely damaged pathways on this street,” he said.
He confirmed there was a meeting scheduled for today (Tuesday) about the project.