Council’s tree management system was ‘confusing’ and ‘random’, inquest told

Elaine Davison, from Pontefract, was killed on Aberford Road in Wakefield by a falling tree in 2010.
Elaine Davison, from Pontefract, was killed on Aberford Road in Wakefield by a falling tree in 2010.

A council’s tree management system has been criticised as being “random, confusing and inadequate”, an inquest into the death of a grandmother heard.

Mrs Davison, 55, and her husband Edward were driving home when their car was struck by a falling tree outside St Peter’s Church, Aberford Road, Wakefield on November 11, 2010.

Giving evidence to a jury inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court, Anthony Whitehead, a chartered arboriculturalist and surveyor, described Wakefield Council’s tree management system, which is responsible for over 30,000 trees, “not fit for task” and “out of date”.

Mr Whitehead was asked to assess surveys undertaken on the site by both arboricultural employees of the council and an independent consultant.

Senior coroner David Hinchliff read Mr Whitehead’s statement to the jury, saying: “You say Wakefield Council’s records are so random that they are inexplicable.

“The council’s plan is confusing and not fit for task.

“You added that the system can only be described as a random series of notes and that it was useless as a working document.

“You say that the fault does not lie with the database system, but the fact that it has not been updated regularly.

“The system was inadequate because it did not have information and was so corrupt that the tree in question did not exist in the system in 2009.”

Mr Whitehead said: “The prime problem is that the records and the site do not match.”

The jury also heard that prior recommendation for the removal of the tree, which was 15m high and was in poor condition, was not described as urgent.

Mr Whitehead acknowledged that the horse chestnut tree had a “very common disease” for trees of this type.

The jury was also told that a previous indication of a potential lifespan of the tree, undertaken in 2008, of between 0-10 years was correct.

The jury inquest, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.