I have a willow and two beech trees in my garden. They are subject to a preservation order, which means that I am not allowed to prune them without first applying to the city council for permission. Failure to do so is deemed a criminal offence and prosecutions can and do happen, sometimes with very serious financial consequences for the individuals involved.
Three copies of the relevant documents are needed in order to make a submission. The council have photographic records of every tree covered by the order and their representative checks on them from time to time.
The application process requires that the owner makes a drawing of the trees and their position on the property with an explanation of the nature of the work being requested. On two occasions a branch from one of my trees hid ever so slightly a 'Dead end' sign on the street outside. I only became aware of this when I received complaints from the council demanding that this be remedied – yet I still had to apply for permission to action the work and rectify the problem.
It begs the question as to why my amateur diagrams were considered necessary when a photographic record of the trees existed already in the council's archives. Moreover, I also had to submit a fee for the privilege of obtaining their permission to prune my trees, in my garden ... at their request!
In such cases, a tree professional – an arboriculturist or a horticultural adviser – must supply evidence to support my reasons for wanting the work done if these reasons relate to the health and/or safety of the trees. In all, it takes – at the very least – six weeks after an application is submitted for permission to materialise. My declaration that small branches were falling and were potentially dangerous did not speed up the process. Indeed, prior to sanctioning my application, my neighbours were notified (a legal requirement) and given the opportunity to comment if they so wished.
I fully agree with the ideals of conservation; we have an individual and collective responsibility for trying to protect this amazing world which God has bequeathed to us. What is deeply upsetting, however, is the stark dichotomy between the selective enforcement of various rules designed to safeguard our environment, and our failure to apply anywhere near the same criteria of protection for the unborn child, the greatest of all God's gifts and made in His 'own image and likeness'.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act and we are already seeing plans from certain anti-life organisations to use the anniversary to push for a total 'decriminalisation' of abortion, which would usher in abortion on demand for any reason, up to birth. Since the Act, over eight and a half million unborn babies have been aborted in England, Scotland and Wales, with an average of 550 babies aborted each day in 2015 – the latest year for which we have statistics. In England and Wales in 2015, some 3,213 abortions were performed for disability while 230 were late-term disability-selective abortions (between 24 weeks and birth).
The previous year, 2014, the number of terminations for Down's syndrome increased by more than 10 per cent in the space of just 12 months as new screening techniques became privately available. In that same year, a Department of Health review identified that there is significant under-reporting of disability-selective abortions and that the numbers were likely to be much higher. God may well have created us as a gift to Himself, yet today it seems we afford even a tree greater respect and protection than we do our unborn children.