A GROUP set up to safeguard the future of Great Harwood's Memorial Park has reported Hyndburn Council to the Local Government Ombudsman, accusing it of going back on its word.
The Friends of Memorial Park say they began working closely with the council in May after proposals to fell 28 trees at the park were announced. They claim the authority said the trees had the aggressive Bulgarian Canker disease, but research carried out on behalf of the park group showed the disease could in fact be bleeding canker.
After weeks of campaigning to stop the tree-felling, an 11th hour meeting was held between the council and the residents' group, which provided documents to support its belief in a wrong diagnosis.
The council agreed that if the disease was bleeding canker the information would be made public. In return the Friends agreed not to go public about the council's possible wrong diagnosis.
The council suspended tree-felling and commissioned an independent survey, the progress of which will be presented to next month's Great Harwood Area Council meeting.
It was jointly agreed a statement would be embargoed until 5 August. But last Saturday an officer from Hyndburn Council appeared in the press discussing diseased trees.
A spokesperson for the Friends of Memorial Park said: "We kept to our side of the bargain. The council obviously had other ideas.
"Our trust has been violated and the goodwill we have built up since May has been severely damaged. The council has put its relationship with the Friends and other groups in jeopardy."
The Friends' main concern is that the council did not mention the possibility of misdiagnosis in the newspaper story. The spokesman added: "If a tree is wrongly diagnosed, this can result in the wrong decisions being made with regard to treatment, maintenance or felling.
"If the council is so keen to stop the spread of the disease across the borough, why weren't the infected trees removed three years ago in a bid to save the others? Now it has become clear that most of the trees around the playing field will be felled, the correct diagnosis of fungal infections is fundamental to any replanting schemes so new trees don't become infected."
A Hyndburn Council spokesman said: "We recognise the fact that the Friends of Memorial Park thought there was an agreement and there was no intention by the council to break this.
"The information was generated as part of the regular members' bulletin to keep councillors informed of current issues within the borough. These are sent to the press as a matter of course. A number of organisations were contacted for their comments on the implications of this tree disease across Lancashire."