Battle to fell trees and ease boy's allergies hits 'Kafkaesque' problem

A council in London has issued a tree preservation order to save the two silver birches

Lawyer Sam Robinson made a public pledge to plant replacement trees at the family home, which sits beside one of North London's canals. Photo: Getty

A father fighting to cut down trees to ease his son’s allergies has accused his London council of creating a Kafkaesque nightmare to stop his plans.

Sam Robinson, a lawyer, says his son has coughing fits and that the answer is to cut down two trees outside his home and replace them with two trees somewhere on his property.

After hearing of his plan, Westminster City Council slapped a tree preservation order on the two silver birches, making it an offence to touch them without permission.

Mr Robinson said the trees caused his son, 9, to suffer severe hay fever and break out in hives.

He handed over what he called “conclusive” medical evidence that his son’s suffering was caused by the trees at their home in Little Venice, an upmarket area of north London about a mile from Regent’s Park.

“He coughs; he can’t sleep. This goes on for not a small amount of time — for three months during the summer we have to live in the house with the windows closed,” he told councillors in comments reported by the Evening Standard.

“He can’t go into the garden. He has been prescribed medication … it makes him drowsy, it makes school challenging for him.”

Mr Robinson also made a public pledge to plant replacement trees for the silver birches at the family home in Blomfield Road, which sits beside one of Little Venice’s canals.

It was not immediately clear how the newly planted trees would not cause the boy the same problem.

Councillors, while apologetic and sympathetic, made the tree protection order permanent, meaning the case will now be heard in front of a planning inspector.

Rosie Dobson, Westminster City Council’s tree officer, said the birches made a “positive contribution to the character and appearance” to the Maida Vale area.

Local councillor Antonia Cox said she was “extremely sympathetic” to the argument, but added: “There are other birch trees around, and my worry would be the little boy would still suffer from hay fever and have to take medication because of the other birch trees.”

While deciding whether to pursue their case, Mr Robinson said: “We are faced with a Kafkaesque problem.”

Updated: February 28, 2022, 1:42 PM
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