Peterborough residents keep 24 hour watch in bid to save 600 year-old oak tree from being felled

Residents in Peterborough have rallied together in a bid to save a 600 year-old tree from being felled by the council.

By Ben Jones
Thursday, 29th July 2021, 2:22 pm
Richard Elmer infront of the tree in Ringwood he is fighting to protect.
Richard Elmer infront of the tree in Ringwood he is fighting to protect.

The tree itself is on a public lane in Ringwood, Bretton and is close to properties in Barnard Way and dates back to the 14th century. This makes it almost certainly one of the oldest trees in Bretton and Peterborough as a whole.

It is one of the last standing oaks from the original Grimshaw Woods and appears as if it is one tree but is two that have grown together into one.

There was a third that sat alongside them but it was felled some years ago as part of property developments.

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Protestors infront of the tree.

One of the remaining trees is subject to a Tree Protection Order, however, and is on the Ancient Trees register.

For this reason, residents have raised objections to the decision of Peterborough City Council to grant permission to fell the trees after a full review was undertaken earlier this year.

The review was ordered after claims that roots from the tree were causing structural damage to a nearby property.

An application to fell the trees was made to the council by PRI Insurance Services ‘as a remedy to to the differential foundation movement at the insured property and to ensure the long-term stability of the building.’

Protestors infront of the tree.

They claimed that felling the tree would limit the need for expensive repairs to the house, expected to cost between £28,000 and £75,000 and that measures such as simply pruning the tree would not be enough.

Site reports have come down on the side of the insurance company and reiterate that clay shrinkage subsidence at the property has been caused by variations in the clay’s moisture, caused by the roots.

The council has agreed to allow the felling of the tree and has pointed out that they plan to plant eight further trees, including two oaks, in Bretton this autumn. A spokesperson said: “Earlier this year, a full review on the oak tree took place. This concluded that the tree was causing structural damage to a neighbouring property and that its removal was necessary to stop future damage.

“All options were looked at, including pruning, but the conclusion of the experts was that removal was necessary.

The tree during the winter. Photo: Richard Simcox.

“The review included a qualified independent structural engineer, a city council insurance officer and a qualified arboriculturist.

“Over Autumn and Winter, the city council will be planting six trees in and around the surrounding area of Ringwood including two further oak trees.”

The council say they are unable to comment further for legal reasons.

Many residents have taken exception to this decision, however, and have called on the council to do whatever is necessary to protect the tree and repair the property.

The oak tree in Ringwood, Bretton. Photo: Richard Simcox.

In less than a day, a petition has received over 350 signatures and residents gathered at the tree today (July 29) to express their opposition.

Last month (June 28) one of the protestors, Richard Elmer, even stepped in to stop workers when they first attempted to fell the tree.

Since then, neighbours have been keeping a 24 hour watch on the tree, something Richard says is beginning to affect him personally as he also acts as a carer for his elderly mother.

He said: “It is a magnificent tree that has survived for over 600 years. It’s survived everything from Henry VIII’s mass deforestation to make his ships and I’ve been told by experts that, if left alone, it would easily survive another 600 years.

“It is one of the few remaining trees of the original Bretton Woods, we’ve already lost two other ancient trees this way and the community shouldn’t suffer by losing anymore.

“We truly believe that this tree is a special case and should be saved for future generations to see. Us residents have to stand up for our area in the same way we did for the area that is now South Bretton Playing Field.

“That area is now a community resource for people across Peterborough because we stood up for the covenant placed on the area.

“Ringwood really is a lovely place to live and I hope the council do the right thing and use what is our money to protect this tree and repair the damage to the house in the interests of the whole community.”