Council ‘deeply saddened’ but felling of 600-year-old oak tree in Peterborough to resume ‘shortly’

Peterborough City Council says that it is ‘deeply saddened’ but that the felling of an ancient 600-year-old oak tree in the city is to resume ‘shortly’.

By Ben Jones
Friday, 27th August 2021, 6:01 am
The ancient oak tree in Ringwood, Bretton. Photo: Richard Simcox.
The ancient oak tree in Ringwood, Bretton. Photo: Richard Simcox.

Last month, protestors in Ringwood, Bretton set up a 24 hour watch on an ancient oak tree close to properties in Barnard Way after the council gave their permission for it to be felled.

The oak dates back to the 14th century and the original Grimshaw Wood. It is now two trees that have grown into one, with one side subject to a Tree Protection Order.

Despite this, the council has sided with an insurance company, which claims that the roots of the tree are causing damage to a nearby property, and has agreed to the felling.

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Protestors infront of the ancient tree in Ringwood, Bretton.

The campaign to save the tree has received backing from many local councillors as well as MP Paul Bristow, who stated that “ancient trees like this are increasingly rare and deserve special protection.”

The council has said that while the felling is regrettable, it will resume shortly and it plans to plant six more trees in the area; with the consultation of residents.

A spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: “Peterborough City Council is saddened by the action it needs to take concerning a mature tree, as no-one likes to see any mature trees felled, especially a mature oak and the Council does not take such action lightly.

“Our plan is to replace the tree in Bretton with six more standard trees in the locality, but not near properties. Across the city, we have ambitious plans to plant 1,000s of new trees every year.

“We know the planting of new trees cannot replace a much-loved mature tree and we accept the loss of this tree will have an impact on the landscape. However, doing nothing is not an option open to us. The council has a very clear policy, in line with national best practice and legislation, that where a tree we are responsible for is causing damage we have a legal duty to address this.

“After we received the application to fell the tree and established it was Council-owned, we considered a range of different options, involving experts to consider how best to address the damage being caused by the tree – including keeping the tree and accepting the damage costs, pruning the tree or inserting root barriers under the ground, but these would either not solve the problem or, due to the scale of costs involved, would result in less to spend on trees across the whole of Peterborough.

“It was agreed the only two options available were to fell the tree or for extensive ground works to be undertaken, and at a substantial cost.

“The cost of this extensive ground work would equate to around one third of the council’s annual tree maintenance budget being used, resulting in 1,000s of other trees not being managed properly, a significant reduction or even scrapping of plans for the planting of new trees across Peterborough.

“Also, extensive ground works to ‘save’ the tree could result in high greenhouse gas emissions because it probably would involve high volumes of excavation and material, the scale of which and the greenhouse gas emissions arising from this potentially being greater than the tree would ever absorb from the atmosphere.

“This is absolutely not the problem of the current nearby householders to resolve themselves, planning guidance and building standards were followed at the time but no-one could predict the damage the trees would cause. We must now deal with the situation as we find it today - the tree is the responsibility of the council and is posing a danger to property.”

Cllr Nigel Simons, cabinet member for waste, street scene and the environment, added: “The decision has been based on specialist advice and after a thorough decision-making process, the recommendation was, and continues to be, to remove the tree.

“The council made sure all appropriate applications were submitted, appropriate consultation took place - Bretton Parish Council was contacted for its views in May 2020, information was put on the council’s website during the consultation period which started in April 2021, and all local Members informed. No objections were received at the time.

“We have currently paused the felling work for safety reasons, but sadly we will have to resume shortly. We would welcome engagement from residents and the parish council about the siting of the new trees, which we will plant this coming winter. In addition, we would welcome suggestions from residents as to how we could make use of the oak timber, perhaps as a local bench in the area or as an art sculpture.”