Anger after historic King’s Tree in Markinch cut down without public being informed

Local residents who are unhappy that Fife Council has cut down the historic King's Tree without consultation.  Pic: Fife Photo Agency.
Local residents who are unhappy that Fife Council has cut down the historic King's Tree without consultation. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

The felling of an historic tree, planted over 80 years ago to mark King George V jubilee, has sparked fury among a Fife community.

Residents in Markinch are incensed at Fife Council’s decision to cut down the mature beech - known locally as the ‘King’s Tree’ - and have took to social media to protest over what they claim is lack of respect the authority has for things of historical importance in the town.

Fife Council has cut down the historic tree.  Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

Fife Council has cut down the historic tree. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

Dozen’s of angry residents have demanded the council explain its actions and have called for an apology as to why there was not public consultation to discuss the popular landmark’s future.

And some locals are even suggesting the tree has only been removed to benefit the forthcoming installation of a pedestrian crossing a few feet away.

“It’s an outrage what Fife Council has done, it’s an insult to Markinch,” Kevin White, who grew up in the town, told the Gazette.

“This has upset a great many people, we want to know who made such an appalling and disgraceful decision to cut the tree down.

“There has been no attempt whatsoever to inform the public of the in intention to destroy it, not even as much as a note pinned to the tree, and to know that councillors and the town’s community council has known of this for a year is unacceptable, it’s been a catastrophic failure by all concerned.”

The beech was planted in John Dixon Park by the town’s Girl Guide and Brownie troupe in November 1935 to mark the royal occasion and has been a well known symbol in the town for generations.

But an inspection of the tree’s health by Fife Council in January 2015 revealed the early signs of the wood decay fungus Laetiporus sulphureus (chicken of the woods) and the belief that the tree was approximately 70 per cent dead.

Officers used a resistograph- a process whereby a needle is driven into wood to determine internal defects, wood density and growth rates.

A subsequent inspection report concluded that, while the fungal decay was in its early stages, the tree would be deemed unsafe within three years and that the safest option, due to its proximity to public pathways and road, would be to remove it within one year.

Fife Council has defended its decision to cut down the tree saying safety was its primary concern.

Jim Leitch, team manager said: “Last February we passed the tree hazard report on to local councillors for the community council’s information. We’re sorry if residents of Markinch were unaware that we needed to fell the King’s Tree. It’s sad to have to cut down any tree, not least one that is obviously so fondly regarded by the local community.

“Although the King’s Tree may have looked healthy enough it was in fact already around 70 per cent dead at the time of the report, just over a year ago.

“For safety reasons the recommendations of the report have been actioned to ensure that this mature beech tree didn’t put anyone at risk of harm.”

Councillor John Beare added: “It’s always difficult when a tree that is important to a community has to be felled.

“The report prepared by the parks and countryside service advised that it was 70 per cent dead and that it could not be saved.

“I have asked officers if the very large stump can be secured, to give the community time to consider what may be made from it, this will give the tree a life into the future, within Markinch.“

Meanwhile Angela High, chairman of Markinch Community Council, dispelled any suggestion of a conspiracy or collusion with Fife Council over the tree’s removal.

“The community council assisted in the application of funding for the crossing, identified as a priority by the primary school, because the cost of the instillation could not be met in any other way.

“Suggestions that the tree was removed because of the crossing are wholly untrue and that there was some sort of collusion by either us or councillors are completely unfounded.

“A number of concerns have been raised regarding the safety of other trees within John Dixon Park and the community council is pressing the relevant authorities for an urgent assessment to be undertaken to reassure residents.”