Bretton oak tree: Peterborough Extinction Rebellion protester sleeps overnight in under-threat tree

"He's hoping to stay there as long as necessary – he’s motivated to save this tree”

Protesters, who hope to save a 600-year-old oak tree from being felled in Bretton, will find out the fate of the tree at a court hearing today (June 28).

Campaigners, some belonging to the global environmental activism group Extinction Rebellion, have been camping opposite the tree since June 27.

One member of the group even slept in a hammock suspended from the tree overnight and has been given cups of tea by a rope system.

A man has taken up residence in the tree.

"He's hoping to stay there as long as necessary,” Anna Bunten, 46, who is a member of Extinction Rebellion camping at the tree, said. “He’s motivated to save this tree.”

On Monday (June 27), campaigners took their case to court and were successful in gaining an injunction which has so-far prevented the felling of the tree until the case is heard at Peterborough County Court.

The protestors’ case will claim that Peterborough City Council’s decision to fell the tree, on Blind Lane in Ringwood, breaches of the Environment Act 2021.

It comes as the council previously announced plans last week to fell the tree to remove their liability for future damage, which an insurance company claims would cause to a nearby home.

The encampment on the ground has been sending up food to the protester in the tree.

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‘Enough is enough’

Richard Elmer, who was among residents who kept a 24-hour watch on the 14th Century tree when it was at risk of being felled last year, said it is the last remaining tree on the street.

"Blind Lane has been decimated,” he said. “If you look at the photographs of Blind Lane in 2011, you will see what we’ve lost.

The tree in Bretton is thought to be about 600 years old

“It’s gone from Centre Parcs to a warzone. Enough is enough. This is the last remaining tree and this council now – in this environmentally-aware world that we live in – describe this ancient tree as a ‘nuisance’ and want to fell it as a precaution.

“If you said that any tree, near any house, could potentially create damage, you’re going to fell thousands of trees across the country.

“They say that they will replace it with other trees but we know that a tree doesn’t have any benefit to the environment for at least 50 years.

"Saplings will not replace an ancient oak tree. It’s like saying we’ll knock the Cathedral down and give you a portacabin to worship in – it’s not the same.”

Protesters camping opposite the tree have said they will remain there to save the tree.

‘We can’t let this happen’

Anna Bunten, is part of the environmental activism group Extinction Rebellion.

She has lived in Peterborough for 22 years and is camping outside the tree with other members of the group.

"The group felt motivated to come and protect this tree. Once you’ve tried all of the usual channels, there is nothing left sometimes but to stand in the way and say we can’t let this happen.

"We need to work out how we can live in a city and support nature.

"We need to create a balance which will create a healthy city for our mental health, for our physical health, our children and our future.”

Police liaison officers at the scene have been chatting with protesters today.

‘It’s heartbreaking’

“It used to be all woodland,” Damon Watson, 44, a member of Extinction Rebellion, who grew up nearby, said.

"My dad would take me out and show me the trees – it was a really special time.

"As I grew up, I left Peterborough but every time I came back I saw less and less. It’s heartbreaking.

“It’s disappearing and it’s like a part of me is being taken away.

"I’ve got such a special place in my heart for trees like this. I don’t know what it will take, but I’ll do everything I can to protect it.

"It’s for future generations. Once this is gone, you’ll never get it back.”

‘Where is it going to stop?’

“Where is it going to stop” Green Party councillor, Kirsty Knight, said.

“How many trees are we going to lose? This is the last tree here – it means a lot to people as it’s been here for so long.”

‘It’s part of the community’

"I was 11 when he moved to Peterborough in 1978,” John Hopkins, 56, from Ringwood, said. “It’s part of the community.

"I’ve lived with this tree for 40 years. I used to come here with my brothers and the trees were lined right up to the Fitzwilliam estate.

"It’s going and that’s in my lifetime. I open my bedroom curtains and it’s the first thing I see.”