Monument protection requirements Why were trees felled in the American Settlement?

Bonn · Six cypress trees were felled in the Ami-Siedlung with heavy equipment. Residents were not informed about the work. According to Vebowag, the trees would have had to be felled at the request of the Lower Monument Authority.

 A total of six trees were felled in the American Settlement.

A total of six trees were felled in the American Settlement.

Foto: Maximilian Mühlens

The tree cutters came to the American Settlement in Plittersdorf on Wednesday with heavy equipment. With a truck, a special lifting platform and an all-terrain forklift truck, the three workers drove directly to the six cypress trees that could be found at the house Europastraße 19. They were standing there in a spacious green strip between two blocks of houses. Tree after tree was felled. The remains went into a chipper and were shredded. There was a deafening noise, the workers wore ear protectors. Meanwhile, in the flats, local residents stood and watched the action.

Some of them contacted the GA because they could not comprehend what was going on. They had not received any information prior to the events. Thus, the reasons for the felling are being puzzled over in the neighbourhood and in social media. It is said that not only the six cypress trees fell, but also other trees.

Trees were not part of the monument

The listed American Settlement is owned by Vebowag. In response to a question, its managing director Michael Kleine-Hartlage explained that the trees had to be felled because they were not compatible with the requirements for the preservation of historical monuments. The trees were not worthy of protection and had been planted after the settlement was completed and therefore did not belong to the original structure. This was the result of an inspection in spring. At the request of the Lower Monument Authority, the trees now had to be felled, Kleine-Hartlage continued. It remained unclear whether the trees were diseased.

The municipal press office denies that the city of Bonn had issued such an order. "The Lower Monument Authority did not demand the felling of the trees," said Andrea Schulte from the press office. She confirmed that there had been an inspection and that this also took place regularly, but it was not decided which trees had to be felled. Rather, trees were identified that did not fit into the original 1951 planning concept. "We are not asking for anything to be felled. In principle, every felling must also be approved," Schulte continues.

Architect's plan "was not lived"

However, the Lower Monument Authority had signalled to Vebowag that it would also give a positive decision if it submitted a felling application for a tree that was not part of the monument. The Lower Monument Authority, together with the LVR Office for the Preservation of Monuments, has been in contact with Vebowag for years. Trees that were already planned at the time and have to be felled, for example due to pest infestation, would also have to be replanted. In individual cases, trees that were felled and were not compatible with monument preservation should also be replanted with an appropriate tree species.

This was confirmed on Monday by Marc Dittmann, technical manager at Vebowag. The GA had asked again how the statements of Kleine-Hartlage and the city fit together. Dittmann said that his company, as the owner, was of course obliged to apply. "Demand" was therefore perhaps the wrong word, and yet everything had been considered together at the on-site meeting in March. "The starting point is that there was a plan by landscape architect Hermann Mattern in the 1950s that has not been lived up to," Dittmann said. Rather, some things had taken on a life of their own due to uncontrolled growth and incorrect planting. "That's why we looked with the experts to see which plants belong in the Ami estate and which don't," the technical manager explained.

The question whether healthy trees would also be felled, he answered in the affirmative. "Although there are also trees that are structurally difficult." He said that replanting is not always done, sometimes in a different place. "We want to get closer to the original concept over the years," Dittmann said. But one should not forget that it is "nature", which one seems to be controlling. In any case, hedges planted by tenants or flat owners have little chance of being preserved, announced the Vebowag employee: "In some cases, hedges have been created from Christmas trees; these are not part of the settlement or planting concept.“

In the American housing estate, on the other hand, there is a suspicion that the trees were also cut down for maintenance reasons. Fewer trees would also mean lower maintenance costs. These costs are passed on to the tenants - in the past, some have taken action against this.

According to Rolf Fischer, chairman of the citizens' initiative "Save the American Settlement Plittersdorf", some of the felled trees were rotten. His wife had learned this from one of the employees who was busy with the felling. Fischer explained that his initiative was committed to the protection of historical monuments and that this was also being respected. The replanting, on the other hand, is currently proceeding very "slowly". (Original text: Maximilian Mühlens / Translation: Mareike Graepel)

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