Family sues council over tree fall death

Monday 7th February 2022 5:00 pm
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The David Hoyle Foundation was launched in memory of the renowned conservationist in 2018

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THE FAMILY of a Crondall conservationist who dedicated his life fighting deforestation are suing for compensation after he was killed – with tragic irony – by a falling tree.

David Hoyle, 48, died when the 65ft cherry tree fell on his car as he was driving along the A287 Farnham Road in June 2017.

The father-of-three, who had spent his life protecting African forests and their natural ecosystems, was travelling at about 70mph when the tree came down in high winds and torrential rain.

Now his father, Michael, is suing Hampshire County Council and a firm of tree surgeons who had inspected the tree, on behalf of the family.

The are seeking more than £200,000 compensation, claiming the cherry tree, should have been trimmed back to stabilise it months before the fatal accident happened.

But Hampshire County Council, Simon P Holmes Ltd, trading as Tree Surveys, and tree surgeon Ed Power, all deny they were to blame.

Mr Hoyle was a world renowned ecologist who had worked for numerous conservation organisations in Tanzania and Cameroon where he met his wife Marceline 20 years ago. A former Lancing School pupil, he was brought up in Farnham and when the couple returned to settle in Crondall he became active in the community, volunteering at village events.

The family allege that the tree that fell on his car had been identified as requiring work, but this was never carried out.

The family’s barrister, Ben Davies, told London’s High Court the fragile state of the cherry tree had called for urgent action to prevent the risk of it coming down on the road.

“If the tree was likely to fail then it was very likely to fall into the carriageway, given the combined effects of leaning, crown imbalance and the lack of structural roots,” he told Judge Kirsty Brimelow QC.

“Our case is that all this was identifiable in both February and November 2016 and should have led to works being undertaken to reduce or remove the risks by pruning or if necessary felling the tree.”

But both the county council and tree surgeons Simon P Homes Ltd insist they did everything necessary to assess and control the risks posed, blaming the tragedy on freak conditions, including unusually wet ground and winds of up to 60mph.

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