BW refutes tree management failings

Published: Friday, 23 December 2011

BRITISH Waterways has refuted a coroner's report that failings exist in its tree management systems that could lead to future deaths, writes Allan Richards.

Following the inquest into the death of Wendy Brennan (Tree felling panic narrowboatworld 19 December), the Milton Keynes Coroner, Tom Osborne, issued a 'rule 43' report suggesting actions to be taken to prevent further deaths.

Coroners report

The coroners report was addressed to the Waterways Minister, Richard Benyon, with copies to British Waterways' Operations Director, Vince Moran, and other interested parties. In the report, the circumstances leading to Mrs Brennan's death were briefly described with the coroner saying that she had been knocked into the canal by a falling tree just as she was passing under it in a narrowboat.

Failings in tree management systems-

The coroner added:

'During the course of the evidence before me, it was clear there had been failings in the tree management system operated by British Waterways, although I did not consider that such failing, in this instance, contributed to the death of Mrs Brennan. I believe however, to ensure that similar deaths do not occur in the future that there should be an urgent review of the tree management systems at British Waterways...'

The report went further, suggesting that consideration be given to providing a database for all organisations that manage trees to enable the public to report a 'dangerous tree' and allow feedback to the person that reported it.

Ministers response

Despite the coroners opinion that failings in British Waterways' tree management systems might cause future deaths, the Waterways Minister has told him that British Waterways has reviewed their tree management policy and found it to be 'thorough and robust'.

British Waterways has been asked to provide a copy of this review but, as yet, has not responded.