Under Construction: Felling a Protected Tree in Chelsea Conservation Area

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Getting rid of a protected tree in Chelsea

We recently negotiated the removal of a very large tree for our Chelsea clients, without which we wouldn’t have been able to proceed with their plans to extend their home. James Bloor – proprietor of Apples and Pears Gardening – tells the story of how this trouble tree was taken down.

As tree surgeons, most of our work takes place in the countryside. But we recently got a call for a once-in-a-decade job: the removal of an enormous horse chestnut from a tiny garden in the heart of Chelsea.

The tree had a Tree Protection Order on it, but an arboricultural assessment revealed that it was in poor health, making it unsuitable for retention and a possible risk to the surrounding properties.

Dyer Grimes Architecture’s planning strategy was to argue that removing the tree wasn’t just to the client’s benefit, but the council’s as well.

Had the tree fallen down in a storm (likely, given its condition) then the tree would have to be removed anyway. However, if the council granted permission for removal, they could do so with conditions attached – in this case, replacement planting with healthy trees more suitable for the site.

DGA made their case successfully, and they got in touch with us to remove the problem tree – much to the celebration of the clients and their neighbours.

Heavy lies the crown

Before and after of protected tree removal in Chelsea

As we were working close to the house and above neighbouring gardens, we had to be very careful not to drop any branches, as each weighed around 100-150 kilos and could easily crush fences, decking – or one of us!

The risks involved to both people and property are why you should always seek services from qualified, insured tree surgeons rather than reckless, chainsaw-wielding cowboys.

Every branch was secured with rope and balanced with a lowering block before being sawed off, allowing us to carefully lower each one to the ground piece by piece – a process which took two and a half days.

Felling a protected tree in Chelsea

The remaining trunk was far too tall to fell into the garden, so we had to keep taking slices off the top until it was chopped down to size.

Even then, the tree didn’t make it easy. The trunk was leaning back into the neighbouring garden, so we had to use a pulley system to yank the tree back in the right direction so that it could fall safely into the garden without causing any damage.

With the tree finally down to a stump, we had to saw the six tons of wood into liftable pieces so we could carry it back through the house and into the trucks.

Rotten to the core

Rotten protected tree in Chelsea

Sawing through the trunk revealed the extent of the rot, visible in the core above.

During our felling, we were shocked to discover just how unhealthy the tree was – far more than the council could have suspected or an arboricultural assessment could have revealed.

The tree had been subject to heavy handed pollarding about 15 years ago, which had left cuts in the tree which allowed water to seep inside – another reason not to use cowboy tree surgeons!

Over time, this caused rot and decay, which had spread right through the tree to the point that almost the entire trunk was hollow. When we tipped the trunk over, stagnant, rotten water poured out into the garden.

All it would have taken was one particularly bad storm and whole branches, or the entire tree, could have fallen down. The clients and their neighbours were lucky we removed the tree when we did.

Not only will the clients be able to extend their home, they won’t have to live in fear of their existing property being crushed by tons of rotting tree.

If you need tree felling or gardening services, Apples and Pears offer high quality, professional services from qualified, insured gardeners and tree surgeons. Visit their website at