A successful conclusion seems to have been brought to 4-year campaign by residents of New Bridge Street and Malone to protect the forest overlooking the Belfast roundabout in Downpatrick.

Action Taken Against Felling of Trees in New Bridge Street
Action Taken Against Felling of Trees in New Bridge Street

Cllr Cadogan Enright confirmed to the Down Recorder that he had written to the Chair of the NIHE Board on behalf of the residents of New Bridge Street to protest the failure of local NIHE management to prosecute those responsible for cutting down or damaging trees over several years despite local residents being willing to give evidence to the PSNI.

Cllr Enright said “We have fought hard to stop these forests from being chopped down. They are a vital local resource, an oasis of wildlife including a much-loved family of red squirrels and a delight to behold as you drive into Downpatrick from Belfast.”

“Over the last four years the NIHE repeatedly reassured that if we got the name of those involved, the Housing Executive would take action.  We finally caught a culprit, and took his registration number. Thanks to PSNI community policeman Sgt McKenna taking action to trace the car-number we wrote down, we discovered that the tree-surgeon works for the housing executive.” Said Cadogan Enright.

“I asked for the Chair of the Housing Executive to intervene with local management, and ensure action against persons who have been cutting down our trees these last 4 years on repeated occasions, costing £8000 to the NIHE for replacement trees on one occasion alone. If no action is ever taken against any person on this issue, no deterrence will exist against future vandalism.”

The Chief Executive has now replied saying “It transpired that a private resident had paid the Housing Executive’s tree surgery contractor to undertake this work.  The contractor was challenged on this matter and he gave his assurance that this was a one–off occurrence.  The contractor is no longer employed by us and, having sought legal advice, it was decided that it would not be in the best interest of the Housing Executive to pursue this any further as the damage was minimal and we might lose the case if it went to court.  We did however confront the private resident and made it clear that this was unacceptable.”

“Last year we read in The Down Recorder how the Housing Executive was not able to prosecute any one of hundreds of cases of trees being cut down in this area. Possible reasons are now emerging with this case. I am still not satisfied that NIHE has acted correctly. They should have written to the PSNI confirming that they had not given permission for the trees to be cut down, and thus allowed the PSNI to take action in this case.” concluded Cllr Cadogan Enright