COWBOY tree surgeons could be badly hurt or lose their lives, a charity has warned amid a spate of illegal tree felling across West Lothian. 

Police are investigating reports in Livingston that trees have been given the chop by householders in a bid to change the view from their gardens or allow more light in. 

With much of the unauthorised activity occurring on Woodland Trust Scotland's sites in the town and becoming more frequent since the first lockdown, the charity has written to 600 homes, pleading for the work to stop and warning someone could be seriously hurt or "killed". 

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George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland said: "There is a lot of equipment and procedure involved in felling trees properly.

"Contractors need to be qualified and know what they are doing otherwise they might cause a tree to fall on a passing member of the public or leave a pruned tree in a dangerous state.

"Where trees are taken out from a block, those that are left can be at increased risk of blowing over in high winds.

"This is a busy town we are talking about here, not some wild remote hillside. Somebody could be badly hurt or killed."

While householders may have the right to prune branches overhanging their boundary, felling a tree beyond the boundary constitutes criminal damage. 

George continued: "We manage numerous woods across the town and know most residents value the benefits.

"There are many studies which show living near woods and trees boosts wellbeing and mental health. Our woods bring in numerous birds and make for a pleasant environment where children grow up with nature around them and adults can enjoy a walk or a run.

"Householders next to Woodland Trust Scotland sites who have issues with trees on boundaries should contact the Trust. Legitimate problems will be dealt with but what we have been seeing is a spate of cases where trees are being felled well beyond boundaries. 

"We want to issue a warning to Livingston's unauthorised tree-fellers: This behaviour is not acceptable."

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said:  “Police Scotland are working along with Woodland Trust Scotland to address the complaints regarding the illegal tree felling, fly tipping, antisocial behaviours and wilful fire raising across their woods.

"Any such reports will be brought to our attention and investigated fully.”

Woodland Trust sites in Livingston are North Wood, Railway Wood, Deans Wood, Knightsridge Woods, East Woods, Ladywell Woods, Eliburn Woods, Cousland Woods, Kirkton Woods, Dedridge Wood, Wilderness, Bellsquarry Wood and Muiriston Woods.