ENGINEERS have admitted damaging tree roots while they installed new street lights in Brampton.

However Balfour Beatty, which has been contracted by Cambridgeshire County Council to replace, upgrade or remove more than 56,000 street lights across the county, said: “We do not believe this has destabilised the tree or disrupted its growth.”

Brian Ogden, Huntingdonshire District Council's arboricultural officer, wrote to CCC to say he had “personally witnessed” damage to the trees in a conservation area in the village.

He said he stopped the operator of a mini digger to point out that a precautionary area the distance of four times the trunk circumference should be observed and said “immediate responsibility” needed to be taken to prevent the contractors causing any further damage.

A Balfour Beatty spokesman said: “During recent works being carried out in Brampton, to install an electrical supply to a new street lighting column, the roots of a tree were unfortunately damaged.

“The tree roots were approximately 20mm in diameter.”

The spokesman went onto say Balfour Beatty would “remain vigilant in the completion of our street lighting replacement programme to ensure the local environment is preserved”.

Talks have since been carried out with employees to “remind them of the need to take extreme care around trees and other shrubs to ensure disturbance is kept to an absolute minimum”, the spokesman added.

However Mr Ogden wrote back to CCC on Thursday (February 14) to say: “I happened to be in the Brampton area again today, and from what I've seen, it does not appear that the action Balfour Beatty took to resolve the problem has resulted in any actual change in work practice on the ground.”

He believes “more work has been carried out in the same area of Brampton, with the same disregard for tree roots”.

In an email seen by The Hunts Post, Mr Ogden said: “I don't think your contractor Balfour Beatty and their sub contractors understand how serious this is.

“The ripping up of tree roots in conservation area, and to trees protected by tree preservation orders is a criminal offence.

“I'd like to make it absolutely clear, that if any work is proposed that will involve the cutting of roots to trees in a conservation area or protected by a tree preservation order, an application must first be made and consent granted.

“I ask that you insist Balfour Beatty to suspend all work in this area until we can have a meeting to sort this out. I also ask that you and managers for Balfour Beatty visit the Brampton area with me so that I can point out to you and them the damage already caused.”