Opinion: Campaigners deserved to be treated better over Bretton oak tree felling

The day after the felling of the Bretton oak, I was lucky enough to travel to the USA and spend the first week of July in a city deep in the heart of Texas, writes the Green Party’s Barry Warne.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 15th July 2022, 10:21 am
Oak tree protestors at Ringwood
Oak tree protestors at Ringwood

I was surprised but pleased to see the huge number of oak trees around the neighbourhood in which I was staying.

The entire residential area was built in 1979, within a forest which has thousands of trees with oak being the dominant species.

The house I was staying in has about a dozen oak trees growing in the garden, while the bigger gardens contain more. The canopy of these trees provides much needed shade over the unbearably hot summer months.

Barry Warne

The houses were built with foundations designed to work with tree roots, indeed the main problems caused by the trees are roots growing into sewer pipes. Householders generally deal with this inconvenience themselves.

The management of trees is overseen by a professional forester, and while individual trees will be removed if they pose a threat to life or property because of decay, it appears that any removal of a healthy tree would be an absolute last resort. The oak trees are older than the houses and are accorded due respect.

The Bretton oak was felled despite there being no concrete evidence that it was damaging the foundations of any properties.

As an ancient tree it needed managing, but there was no suggestion it was a danger to lives or to buildings.

Campaigners had spent a year fighting a well-organised and respectful campaign to save the oak. The report they had carried out on the tree reached a number of different conclusions to the one commissioned by the council. Eventually, a final decision for the tree to be felled was made at a behind closed doors cabinet meeting.

Green Cllrs Nicola Day and Kirsty Knight became involved with efforts to save the oak, but were as upset and frustrated as local residents and protesters when the tree was felled.

Could things have been done differently? Yes, and it is hoped that PCC will learn some lessons from this tragedy.

The Bretton campaigners are decent, informed, pragmatic people with a legitimate concern which is shared by many. They deserved to be treated as such.