Essential maintenance works will need to be carried out to a much-loved tree in Huntingdon Riverside which was recently the subject of arson.

The mature weeping willow is situated alongside the river bank within the wooded section of the park. It was brought to the attention of our arboriculture team by a member of the public who reported that the tree had been burnt out at its base. On further inspection, it became apparent that the tree had been deliberately set alight, making it structurally unsafe.

Cllr Robin Carter, Executive Councillor for Environment, Streetscene and Operations, said: "This particular willow tree appears to have significant importance to local residents as ornamental figures have been placed around the trunk, with a small door built at the base. Original recommendations by our arboriculture team were to remove this tree, as the council has a duty of care to protect anyone walking past it. However, due to its obvious local importance, the council has decided to try to retain the tree by pollarding it. This involves removing all the upper crown and branches of the tree leaving the main trunk to recover."

During assessment of the tree, a honey bees’ nest was spotted within the midsection of the main trunk. We also have a responsibility to make sure a high level of biodiversity is kept throughout the district, and in so doing so retain habitats for all flora and fauna. We have received advice from the Huntingdonshire Bee Association on what we need to do to retain the nest.

The main footpath, which runs under the tree, is closed for public safety reasons and will be reopened once work to the tree has been carried out. This work is dependent on the bees and will begin when it is safe for staff to work. The tree will be frequently inspected once the work has been done but, if a risk arises in the future, it may need to be removed completely.