FURIOUS homeowners fear a "beautiful" picturesque avenue will be ruined when dozens of mature trees are felled for health and safety reasons.

Redbridge Council has deemed 24 century-old trees in St Mary's Avenue dangerous following a risk assessment and plan to destroy them to prevent a potential accident.

There are plans to replace the trees with saplings, but people living in the street, who successfully saw off a plan to chop down 11 trees last year, have questioned the decision and say the distinctive character of the street will be lost.

Lee McGinty, 39, who has lived on the street for three years, said the council has been too hasty in its decision because of an overzealous attitude to risk.

"The council are giving the impression of taking the easy way out because they haven’t told us anything," he added.

"I think it's quite possible the council have done a full risk assessment trading off the potential for harm with the beauty and amenity of the trees for all, considering all options for management of the trees going forwards, but their behaviour so far doesn't give me much confidence."

Nigel Watson, 42, has called for an independent assessment of the trees' health. He said: "It seems to be a pre-emptive cull to avoid the potentially minuscule risk of prosecution.

"It's almost like they are saying 'if we are going to cut down one tree we may as well cut down 24 to save us the trouble in ten years time'.

"The wonderful feel of one of the most beautiful streets in Wanstead will be changed forever."

Neighbour, Michael Finlay, 48, said: "I just think it is a knee jerk reaction to safety concerns. They are going to ruin St Mary's Avenue."

The council has promised to replace the trees by February next year.

A council spokesman said: "Redbridge Council takes its responsibility towards the conservation and the preservation of trees very seriously and we would not be suggesting the felling of these trees unless we felt it was absolutely necessary. 

"We have closely monitored the trees in St Mary’s Avenue because of what we have found in previous inspections, some of the trees are now at a stage that we believe they should be removed as they are suffering from a variety of issues including decay, structural weakness and environmental conflicts. The Council understands that the trees are rightly very important to residents."

The authority has offered to meet people to discuss the issue in St Mary's Avenue on October 6 and 13.

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