Diseased tree which was saved by campaigners set to be felled

Jenni Harding with the false acacia which will have to be felled (credit Protect Newark's Green Spaces)
By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter

A tree saved from being cut down by environmental campaigners will now have to be felled after it was found to be diseased.

The tree is one of four in Newark which were due to be chopped by the district council to make way for a car park extension in London Road.

A campaign by local people against the plan gained national attention and the council reversed the decision at the eleventh hour in November after negotiations with a developer.

Campaigners had camped beneath the trees and refused to leave the site.

Now, locals say they are saddened to hear one will need to be felled after it was discovered to have a disease in the trunk.

Jenni Harding of Protect Newark’s Green Spaces told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It was a huge shock.

“We’ve had it checked by our tree surgeon who said it was dangerous and it could blow over.

“Over the past two years it has been neglected because it was going to be chopped down.

“A lot of people will be upset and emotional, it will be very hard.

“Everyone’s very sad about it and it will look dreadful for it to be felled after we fought so hard.

“But the council said they will plant an oak tree in the space which is a good idea.

“The Friends of Newark Library Gardens group now have input with the council which is a win – and so far from where we were three months ago.”

The original plan to fell the trees followed a legally binding agreement Newark and Sherwood District Council signed with Datch Properties Limited in 2019, which committed the council to building the car park.

The council said it reversed the decision after receiving a last minute offer from the developer in November.

Pamela Ball of the Friends of Newark Library Gardens group was one of the four campaigners who slept underneath the trees in protest.

She said that the work going on with the council has been “really encouraging”.

She said: “We’ve had a couple of meetings with the council and we are planning to rewild that area to encourage more wildlife and increase biodiversity.

“We’d like to have environmental lessons there and small theatre groups can use the space.

“It’s a polar opposite to what it would’ve been.

“Three apprentices from the council have been assigned to the work, they have taken up concrete slabs and tidied up branches.

“We’re going to put in a fairly large English oak tree to replace the false acacia which will need to go.

“We’re going to reuse some of the wood for benches and sculptures, too.”

Speaking of how far the group has come, she added: “It’s all a bit surreal and I am really pinching myself.

“It is a dream a lot of us have had for quite a while.

“I would do it all over again, I think we all would. It was so important.”

On February 12, the group will host their first event of 2022 at the Library Gardens where residents get involved with crafts to highlight the climate crisis.

Councillor David Lloyd, Leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: “We acquired the site having listened to the many campaigners. Since then we have drawn up plans, underway, to return the area to a natural site given that the nearby Beaumond Gardens are laid out for public access. We are grateful for the comments of campaigners in this respect. There’s clearly some remediation needed including further tree planting but our plans align with aspirations.

“In reports undertaken studying the trees on this site, unfortunately, and rather sadly, one of the trees is diseased and poses a safety risk to residents.

“We have discussed the results of the findings, which have been verified by an independent tree surgeon with the campaigners, who agree that the only option is to remove that tree.”

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