Fife Council investigation into felling of Markinch King’s Tree highlights failings

Markinch residents gathered at the King's Tree in March to vent their anger at it being cut down by Fife Council
Markinch residents gathered at the King's Tree in March to vent their anger at it being cut down by Fife Council
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The findings of an investigation into Fife Council’s decision to destroy an historic local landmark will be given to councillors today (Wednesday).

The felling of the King’s Tree, in John Dixon Park - planted in 1935 by a local guide troupe to commemorate King George V’s silver jubilee - caused widespread outrage among residents in Markinch when it was cut down by the council in March, without the public being informed.

The town’s councillors, along with members of the community council, faced a barrage of criticism on social media, which resulted in police investigating allegations of threats to individuals and ended with one volunteer resigning from her post.

Council officers took the decision to cut down the tree after an inspection in January 2015 revealed that the historic beech was diseased and estimated to be already 70 per cent dead.

The report into the handling of the affair, which was requested by councillor Kay Morrison, a resident of Markinch and one of the four elected to represent the town, confirmed there was a break down of communication and a failure to carry out procedures by council officers.

It also confirms that only one councillor - John Beare - was formally notified of the tree’s condition by council officers, and that more needed to be done in future circumstances to inform all councillors as well as community groups and the wider public via the local media, of intentions in similar future instances.

Cllr Morrison told the Gazette it was crucial lessons must be learned: “Fife Council as an organisation has to become better at information sharing and informing people of what its intentions are. The community especially felt let down and that can’t be allowed to happen in future.”