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Trees poisoned at tourist viewpoint

TOURIST buses always stop at the top of North Road so that people can enjoy the panorama of Bath's Georgian terraces. It is lucky that the trees planted next to the road are stunted and leafless, or the view would be blocked out. Actually, luck did not have much to do with it: a large dose of weedkiller was responsible.

The trees were planted by David Britton, a surgeon at the city's Royal United Hospital, whose house lies below the road. He and his wife Marjorie spent thousands of pounds on trees and a tall wire- mesh fence, trying to blot out the sight and sound of the tourist buses which regularly pull up above their house - four or five an hour in the summer.

However, the Brittons' attempts to screen out the sight and sound of the buses have been less than successful. This year, three young quick-growing conifers were poisoned with Paraquat. For good measure their trunks were attacked with a saw. Last year, trees planted on the same spot were also poisoned.

The proximity of the tourist bus halt to the poisoned area led the Brittons' solicitor to contact the Badgerline bus company, which runs the tours. 'We think the trees could only have been sprayed from the top of a bus,' said Mrs Britton, who is particularly vexed because publicity about the poisonings led to an increase in passengers, many of whom were more interested in looking at the Brittons' mutilated vegetation than the cityscape.

However, Martin Curtis, Badgerline's regional director, rejects the notion of any Badgerline employee being involved in poisoning the trees.

'We have advised staff of the contents of the solicitor's letter and they have been reminded that any action of that type would be viewed very seriously. But we have no reason to believe anyone has. We always have a guide on the top deck. It is a ridiculous suggestion.'

An outbreak of peace seems unlikely. The Brittons are not alone in protesting against the tourist bus companies operating in Bath. In previous years angry residents have turned hosepipes on to top decks and pelted passengers with apples.