Residents furious about chopped trees

Chopped trees left behind as evidence.

By Tumelo Mthethwa

Just over two months ago a billboard was put up on Van Buuren Road calling for interested advertisers to get in touch to book the space.

The billboard itself is not the issue. However, the owner allegedly cut down and pruned some trees obstructing the view of his board.

Bedfordview community members are up in arms and have taken to social media to vent their anger.

Ward 20 councillor Jill Humphreys pointed out that the cutting of trees was against by-laws, and not only that, but the community was not impressed.

“The community hates the boards. The oak trees in Van Buuren Road are part of the character of Bedfordview. Long-time residents are very protective of the trees,” she said.

“Why should billboards take precedence over trees?” she asked.

Humphreys said there was outrage.

The concrete mess left behind by workers allegedly sent by the owner of the billboard.

“Billboard owners beware – Bedfordview will unite and fight for the right to our trees.”

The NEWS has been attempting to get a hold of the owner of the billboard to no avail.

Humphreys, who had spoken to him, said he admitted that he had once cut the trees obstructing his billboard but not recently.

“There’s a huge concrete mess that was left behind and he assured me that his workers would clean it up.”

The owner allegedly told Humphreys that the metro had also contacted and questioned him about cutting the trees.

“I have asked the metro about the billboard issue. I’ve quoted the by-laws; I don’t know what will be done. The metro must take action,” Humphreys said.

Metro spokesperson Themba Gadebe said no tree may be pruned or removed from metro property within the metro except by the department or an appointed contractor.

According to by-laws, the trees on metro property will only be removed by Metro Parks under the following conditions: dead or dying; deceased beyond recovery; causes a traffic hazard that pruning would not alleviate the problem; causes an electrical hazard or causes non-compliance with the relevant sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act; causes damage to water or sewer pipes; necessary to accommodate municipal services provided no alternative route is available; or a proclaimed noxious weed or invader plant (Regulation 15 of Conservation of the Agricultural Resources Act 43 of 1983); trees may only be removed from a sidewalk to provide vehicle access to a property if the application is supported by the Executive Director: Road Transport and Civil Works in consultation with the Executive Director: Environmental Development and the approved tariff for removing such a tree is paid in advance; developers shall provide a detailed site plan for any new development showing the location of all street trees adjacent to the property which shall be approved by the Executive Director: Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture prior to the development proceeding; existing trees, whose roots have developed extensively such that its roots causes structural damage to the road layers may at the request of the Roads, Transport and Civil Works Department be removed and replaced at the cost of the metro; a dangerous tree where the danger cannot be alleviated by pruning or other horticultural work.

Humphreys added that there were penalties for violation of the by-laws and a hefty fine to pay if found guilty.

Another issue she raised is that the cutting of trees sets a precedent for other billboard owners to follow suit.

“There’s a multiplicity of billboards – every time we turn around there’s a billboard. There are a lot of illegal billboards that were just put up with no application to council.”

The councillor pointed out that some residents were even going as far as putting billboards up in their yards without permission.

Humphreys still maintained that billboards contributed to numerous motor vehicle accidents.

“I honestly believe that the number of accidents on the Gillooly’s interchange, which is the busiest in the country with so many splits, is undoubtedly due to confusion and being distracted by monstrous billboards.”

Humphreys said she believes there is a ‘billboard mafia’ operating in Bedfordview.

“I can only object to billboards if it’s against by-laws. What needs to happen is that the EMPD needs to be proactive, the community needs to raise flags and the metro must react.”

Humphreys said the issue of billboards needed to be taken up nationally.

“I can only comment and complain.”

She urged the community not to deface legal billboards.

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Tumelo Mthethwa

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