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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Conker trees face the chop

Horse chestnut trees are a safety hazard, says council
A row is raging in Norwich after the city council threatened to fell seven horse chestnut trees because of the risk posed by their conkers.

The conkers are a danger to pedestrians, who could slip on the mulch they leave behind, according to the council.

The golf-ball sized horse chestnuts could also come crashing down onto passing cars, while sticks thrown by children to dislodge them could cause serious head injuries, the council has warned.


We had an incident not so long ago in Norwich where a child was knocked down by a car while conkering

Councillor Harry Watson
There are also fears that children gathering conkers are at risk from vehicles.

Norwich City Council is planning to remove a total of 20 trees in one street, Bluebell Road, with the first seven due to be chopped down in the next few weeks.

Generations of children have grown up collecting conkers, threading them with string and swinging them in matches, in which the hardest conker sees off its softer rival.

'Busy road'

Martin Richards, who has one of the condemned trees outside his house, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the council's plans were "daft".

Harry Watson
Councillor Harry Watson: "Children's safety must be protected"
"You've got 20-year-old trees standing out there that are a joy to the children once a year and to take them away just seems draconian," he said.

But the council said a child had been knocked down by a car while gathering conkers in the city recently.

Deputy council leader Harry Watson told the BBC: "Children forget all about road safety when they are trying to collect conkers.

"They enjoy collecting conkers and we want them to enjoy collecting conkers, but we want them to enjoy it in a safe environment."

"These particular trees are by a very busy road close to a busy school entrance."

'Unbelievable'

But not all the councillors agree.


At the end of the day, children will get up to mischief and we can't go cutting down all our conker trees because of the potential for accidents

Councillor Jane Roozer
Liberal Democrat Jane Roozer told Today: "Everyone has gone through a period of collecting conkers and I find it quite unbelievable that we are thinking of chopping down very healthy, beautiful trees.

"It's just ludicrous - beyond belief.

"At the end of the day, children will get up to mischief and we can't go cutting down all our conker trees because of the potential for accidents."

Council spokeswoman Rachel Bobbitt told BBC News Online that the trees in Bluebell Road would soon become too tall - between about 40ft and 60ft high - and were a hazard to children.

"In preparation for the removal, in recent years, Norwich City Council has been planting replacement lime trees alongside so semi-mature trees will still be on Bluebell Road when the horse chestnuts are removed," she said.

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See also:

08 Dec 00 | Education
Conkers hit by legal fears
22 May 99 | UK
The games children play
04 Aug 99 | Education
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