One of Britain’s tallest magnolia trees felled over health and safety fears

The magnolia tree before and after it was felled
The magnolia tree before and after it was felled

A magnolia tree believed to be among the tallest in Britain has been felled over health and safety concerns.

The 60ft tree, which was planted in a garden in Dorset more than 50 years ago, was cut down after it was found to be in a state of decay.

The owners of the property in Poole had to apply for permission to remove the magnolia because it was covered by a tree protection order.

The local authority granted approval after the owners warned it could fall and damage their own and neighbouring properties.

But those living nearby expressed disappointment there was no solution to keep the tree, which often received visitors during spring to see its blossom.

Neighbour Steve Trew said: “It is a shame. We’ve only been here a few years but we thought it was a lovely tree and were very disappointed when it went.”

The council previously stated that the giant magnolia, which was located in the Lilliput neighbourhood of Poole, contributed “significant visual amenity” to the area and was a “fine example of an unusual tree, therefore it has rarity value”.

A view of the tree before it was felled...
A view of the tree before it was felled... - Corin Messer/Corin Messer
A view of the garden after the tree was felled
...and after - BNPS

The tree preservation order was put in place during the 1980s, after the original owner of the property died and neighbours became concerned a new resident of the house might want to remove the magnolia.

But council records showed some neighbours had since complained that the tree had grown too big for the garden and produced enough petals to fill five wheelie bins a year.

The magnolia is the latest high-profile tree to be cut down or threatened.

Last year Haringey Council brought in masked security officers after a bitter row broke out over a 120-year-old plane tree.

The council said it had no choice but to cut it down after the insurers of two nearby houses, responsible for subsidence on the property, threatened legal action.

‘Obvious decay’

A report by arboricultural consultant Andrew Cleaves had found decay in the Lilliput magnolia, but said it was inconclusive whether it had yet reached a critical point.

Mr Cleaves found fungal fruit bodies on the tree, believed to be either Ganoderma australe or applanatum, both of which cause white rot. He said the fungi appeared well established and was “causing obvious decay in the north stem and causing symptoms in the crown”.

Mr Cleaves said the tree’s exposed position to prevailing winds from nearby Poole Harbour meant there was a risk it could fall and damage properties.

He said in the report: “Whether the condition of the tree has yet reached a critical point probably cannot be pinpointed without testing using internal decay detection equipment, however the direction of travel is clear; the decline in the crown and decay in the stems can only worsen.”

Graham Whitehall, of the Dorset Lake Community Group, said it was a shame to lose the “magnificent” tree, which had grown well above the average 20ft height of a magnolia.

“It’s a difficult one, I’m a big tree lover but I think this was the right tree in the wrong place,” he said.

The owners will now have to plant a Maidenhair, also known as a ginkgo biloba, that is at least 6.5ft tall, and within 16ft of where the magnolia had previously been, under conditions laid down by the council.