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Community / An ‘awful shame’ as century-old tree cut down by power company without owners’ permission

A spokesperson for SSEN said it was an “incredibly rare” situation

Photo: Roland Morewood

A TREE thought to be more than 100 years old has been cut down in Yell by power company SSEN without the landowners’ knowledge or permission.

Landowner Rowland Morewood described the incident, at Seafield House in North-a-Voe, as an “awful shame”.

It comes after a woman in another part of Yell spoke to Shetland News recently about her experience of SSEN taking what she said was “no care” over planned work in her garden relating to nearby overhead power lines.

SSEN has an extensive tree cutting programme across the country to protect power lines.

But in this instance the tree was cut down without permission by mistake.

A spokesperson for the company said it was “regrettable” that the tree at the unoccupied Seafield House, thought to be a sycamore, was cut down without landowners’ consent, and stressed it was an “incredibly rare” situation.

They said after gaining the necessary consent from other landowners in the area to work on their land, the team misidentified the tree in question and incorrectly thought it had permission to be cut down.

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The spokesperson said that as the house was unoccupied, the SSEN tree team were unable to carry out a usual “door-knock check” on the day.

Explaining what happened, Morewood said he had received a call from a neighbour in North-a-Voe while he was off Yell to ask what had happened to the large tree.

“They said we’re all kind of upset about it,” he told Shetland News. “So I went up, and had a look, and it had all been chainsawed, everything’s been cut down and set by.

“I had to go out and ask the neighbours what was going on, and they told me it was SSE.”

He said the owners of the dilapidated C-listed property had “no emails, no phone call or notification that they were going to cut down the tree”.

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Morewood highlighted how the tree was located on private property – and noted that it was especially disappointing given the lack of trees in Yell as it is.

“The house might be ruined, but that’s no need to go and cut down a perfectly healthy tree,” he said.

The tree before it was cut down. Photo © Google 2023

His brother Chris Morewood, who is also an owner of the property, said: “We’re all just so disappointed as old trees are so few and far between and take so long to grow again.”

He believes that the tree could be as old as 150 years. Trees in exposed areas like this tend to grow slower.

Meanwhile there has been disappointment in the wider community over the loss of the tree.

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Vincent Tonner, who grew up in Seafield House, said it was “very sad that it was cut down instead of being trimmed, and with no local consultation”.

He said “generations of bairns” had enjoyed the tree over the decades, by attaching rope swings for example.

In response, a spokesperson from SSEN Distribution said: “Our specialist teams of arborists work throughout the year to minimise the risk of branches and vegetation being blown into overhead lines and network infrastructure, potentially leading to power cuts in the local community.

“Over the course of a 10-day period last month, they worked on over 200 separate sites across Shetland, pruning and felling trees as part of our commitment to delivering a safe and reliable supply of electricity, especially over the coming winter season when higher-than-normal windspeeds can be expected.

“We were initially unaware of any concerns about the work we had had carried out at this address so, as a priority, we have carried out further investigations as well as speaking directly with the landowner.

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“As standard practice, our teams liaise with landowners to obtain the necessary consents prior to any works commencing, and as an additional measure they will also speak to the landowner or householder on the day of work starting to confirm the works to be carried out.

“On this occasion, the property was unoccupied, and we were unable to carry out our ‘door-knock check’. While we had consents for other trees in the area, it is regrettable that we carried out work on this particular tree without the landowner’s permission.

“Incidents such as this are incredibly rare, and we are liaising with the landowner directly to resolve the matter.”

Shetland News recently reported how an elderly woman in Otterwsick, Yell said she was left devastated after whole trees were cut down in her garden – after thinking they would just be trimmed.

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Elderly Yell resident ‘distraught’ after trees cut by power company

In that instance a spokesperson for SSEN Distribution said in a statement that the work planned had been discussed in advance with the customer – with consent forms signed.

Meanwhile SSEN Transmission last week highlighted its multimillion-pound programme which replaces trees that are felled.

Calum Murray, SSEN Transmission’s forester leading on woodland creation, said: “Not only do we replace trees that are felled, but we also work to develop new woodland that provides specifically for biodiversity gain.

“At SSEN Transmission we are committed to ensuring that we deliver at least 10% more biodiversity on our projects, whether they cross woodland, peatland, farmland or any other natural habitat. We want to leave our project sites better than we found them.

“Where it’s possible, we work with communities and other local groups to develop woodlands and we’re always keen to hear from anyone who has land that they’d like to develop a woodland on.”

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