COUNCIL bosses have defended their decision to chop down much-loved trees on a road in Leigh, insisting they are a danger to the public.

The three trees in Pall Mall are facing the chop amid concerns they have ash dieback, a highly destructive fungal disease.

The disease, which was first officially recorded in the UK in 2012 and is now widespread, causes leaf loss, canopy decline, and can kill a tree.

Richard Longstaff, of campaign group Once Upon a Tree in Southend, has expressed his disappointment at the decision to remove the trees.

Mr Longstaff, who lives just off Pall Mall, said: “When I do the school run I walk past these trees and they do have large roots expanding into the pavement, but they are passable.

“They are an absolute joy to see in the street.

“They have been there for decades and provide beautiful big canopies.”

Mr Longstaff has questioned if more could have been done to save the trees, but Southend Council insists action is needed to protect pedestrians, in particular the elderly and parents with pushchairs.

Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for the environment, said: “Three trees in Pall Mall are to be removed due to a combination of poor condition – one of the trees is dead, and high roots damaging the pathway is a potential safety concern.

“Pall Mall’s pavements have been scheduled for repair and being a very busy school and church road with mums with pushchairs and elderly residents navigating the pavements, safety is of paramount importance.

“This leaves us no option but to remove the trees.

“We do consider alternative options such as a change of pavement surface, for instance, but this is not always appropriate or suitable.”

Ms Mulroney added: “We only remove trees as a last resort and replace where we can.

“New trees are planned for Pall Mall that are of reasonable size – not saplings which you would plant in woodland settings.

“Where we do replace trees, we do so with species that are longer term better trees – deeper-rooted, aphid free and non-fruiting if possible.”