TREES at Christchurch Junior School had to be chopped down after experts found they were diseased with branches that could have fallen on pupils.
Some parents were shocked by what they called the “wholesale” felling of the eight poplar trees which are near the school’s playing field on Barrack Road.
But the school has now revealed it had no choice but to bring in tree surgeons because of safety fears.
In a statement it said: “In the last year some large branches have split from the trees. Some have fallen on the field and one large branch fell into the car park of the flats adjacent to the school.
“In windy weather we have had to ensure that children do not play near the trees.
“The Dorset County Council arboriculture manager visited the site and advised that poplar trees were not appropriate for the location as they are structurally weak and cannot resist decay very well.
“We were told that they are not suitable for planting next to roads or areas such as schools and other similar buildings.”
Objectors to the tree-felling claimed the school could have just trimmed the tree branches instead of chopping them down.
Writing on Facebook, Wendy Browne said: “I sat under these trees, and so can my kids. Unless they are rotten inside, they could just be cut back. School gone mad.”
Marina Arnold said: “Massive felling going on today at Christchurch Junior School. All trees are coming down to health and safety, I was told! Been there years! This is what’s going on all over. Shame on the school for ordering this massacre.”
But the school said tree surgeons had found “extensive” evidence of disease, defects and structural problems, and also said that just trimming the trees would not prevent danger in the future.
In its statement it told parents: “Some of the trees were rotten at ground level. Obviously it is not possible to predict when trees or branches might fall but, given the location on fields where our children play every day and also next to a busy pedestrian route and a dual carriageway, they presented a significant risk to the children and also to the public.
“The risk of a branch causing a road accident or injury to a pedestrian or pupil was our main consideration.
“In addition, the trees’ heavy root system has caused extensive damage to the school’s path around the field and this was also identified as a safety risk.”
They added: “Pollarding the trees would leave them looking unsightly and the risk of keeping them for a few more years was still too high.”
Christchurch parent Sue Bristow said on Facebook that she was in favour of the felling: “A health-and-safety issue has been stated so why the negative comments without any more facts?
“Assuming it is a health and safety issue, far better to fell the tree safely than have it fall on a poor child. Maybe you are happy for your child to sit under a dangerous tree. I am not.”
The school has said it is now looking into replacing the trees, possibly with at least one field maple among a hedgerow of evergreen shrubs.