'This is completely unacceptable' says Preston councillor as plans go ahead to cut branches off historical Ingol oak tree
A Liberal Democrat councillor is taking a stand against the Community Gateway Association's decision to cut down branches of a historical oak tree for the safety of pedestrians.
Liberal Democrat Councillor John Potter has called the new pathway, along Dovedale Avenue, a "mistake", after it was put in place underneath the oak tree in December.
When residents first found out that the CGA had planned to fell the much-loved tree in December via a letter they received just the night before, all work was temporarily stopped until planning issues were resolved.
However the housing association has now announced that they will instead remove the large overhanging branches of the tree that don't comply with highway regulations.
But Coun. John Potter says that he has been advised that removing the large branches will destabilise the tree and eventually lead to it being felled.
He said: "When the application for the new sheltered accommodation apartments came in, the tree had a condition that it had to be preserved under the planning permission.
"Then the CGA went and put a pathway directly under it, only to say that the tree then posed a threat to pedestrians.
"It has all been done back to front. I can't understand why a pathway would be put there in the first place. It is a mistake and completely unacceptable."
He also claims that the tree was recently deemed to be a "good specimen" by council Arborists.
Before the footpath was introduced, the CGA said inspections had flagged up concerns about the tree, and that Lancashire County Council’s highways team required “significant works” for it to meet their regulations, which would unbalance the tree.
Coun. Potter added: "This beautiful, healthy and very old mature oak tree has now been put under threat because of some very poor decision making.
"They agreed to place a pavement under the lower branch, only to then say that it is a danger to people using the new pavement.
"It's wrong and the tree was only saved because of the actions of councillors, residents and Preston planning officers.
"It is their mess and they should reroute the pavement, no matter the cost, because it is their mistake. This tree has been there longer than any of us, so why should it suffer?"
In a response to the Post, the CGA said that they were required to construct a footpath in front of the building nearest to the tree and that they have "no evidence" to suggest the removal of branches will kill the tree.
Lee Garry, Head of Asset Management at the CGA said: "The oak tree about which the enquiry was made is within the grounds of our independent living scheme - The Courtyards. We like the tree and would like to keep it as it is, but, unfortunately, this is not possible.
"As part of the planning permission for the development, we were required to construct a footpath in front of the building close to the tree. When this new footpath was inspected by the highways authority, Lancashire County Council, they informed us that the tree did not provide the required clearance where it overhangs both the footpath and the road. This poses a danger to pedestrians and motorists.
"We had been advised that the best course of action was to remove the tree, however, we have listened to feedback from nearby residents and we have agreed on an alternative with our advisors that involves removing the branches that do not comply with the highway regulations.
"Because the tree does not comply with the regulations and poses a danger, we will carry out the works as soon as possible in the next few days to ensure everybody’s safety. We will then monitor the tree regularly to ensure it remains safe in the hope it will live for many years.
"The footpath was requested by Preston City Council planning officers. It was a condition of the planning permission that we connect the development to the existing footpath on the same side of Dovedale Avenue which ends near the park entrance. The works to our building and the footpath included several features and special ways of working that protect the tree.
"While nobody can be sure of the effect this work will have on the tree, we have no evidence to suggest that removing the limb will kill the tree."
Councillor Peter Moss, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning and Resources for Preston City Council said: “Officers promptly responded to the concerns of local residents when this situation was first raised in December – originally regarding an intention to fell this tree.
"While the felling of this particular tree was not included in the approved planning application from 2016, the development was fully completed in line with the permissions given at the time.
“A number of years have passed and unfortunately, the installation of the footpath in that location now raises safety issues for pedestrians, which must be taken seriously. While we do not take the felling of healthy trees lightly, the safety of residents must be a priority and appropriate action must be taken.
“Community Gateway Association are the landowners, and it is within their rights and responsibility to take necessary action in order to protect the public. A condition of planning permission does indicate that felled trees should be replaced by the planting of additional trees on site and, in our ongoing dialogue with them this has been discussed.”
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