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Petition launched to save historic tree from being felled in Canterbury

Officials have ordered the felling of a historic tree in Canterbury this weekend despite a last ditch bid to save it.

The 130-year-old London plane tree is due to be chopped down on Saturday because its roots are breaking through the pavement and causing an "intolerable" hazard.

Helen Applegarth with 130-year-old plane tree she is trying to save from being axed by KCC in London Road, Canterbury
Helen Applegarth with 130-year-old plane tree she is trying to save from being axed by KCC in London Road, Canterbury

Kent County Council says it has investigated all alternatives but none are viable and a replacement tree will be planted nearby.

But Helen Applegarth, a garden designer and expert in wildlife gardens from Broad Oak, believes the tree in London Road could still be saved.

"We should be doing all we can to find a way to protect and conserve our veteran street trees and our fragile ecosystem," she said.

"Trees have been identified as being a key element of any urban climate change adaptation strategy with large, mature ones bringing more benefits than small ones."

Ms Applegarth has now launched a petition to muster opposition against the felling of the tree, already gaining more than 750 supporters.

But the county council insists the work will still go ahead as planned, and will include the closure of London Road this weekend.

Ms Applegarth says the "avenue" of trees was planted in 1887 by Canterbury Mayor William Mount to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria, which makes them "heritage trees" which need protecting.

The county council carried out a public consultation over the issue in London Road, where the trees' roots are damaging the footpaths and creating hazards for pedestrians, pushchair and wheelchair users and those with eyesight problems.

It came up with a solution which managed to spare most of the trees from the axe, except one of the largest, opposite Temple Road.

Ms Applegarth said: "The county council had examined putting ramping over the roots, as it has with the other trees, but says it would be too steep.

"If ramping would create gradients that are too steep, they could use the money saved by not cutting down the tree to make a longer ramp with a gentler gradient.

"They could have tried to compulsory purchase corner parts of gardens to re-route the footpath and there are other technical solutions to covering the roots."

She is urging supporters to sign the petition to give the tree a stay of execution while an alternative solution is found.

But the county council insists the work has to go ahead.

Spokesman Thom Morris said: "The pavement has become a significant issue for pedestrians and mobility-impaired users due to the impact of the large London Plane trees which have narrowed its width and lifted the surface to intolerable gradients and uneven ground.

"We have tried to be as sympathetic as possible to engineer around all of the trees where physically possible and achieved a design which retains all but one of the trees.

"This tree is so large that we were unable to navigate around it.

Helen Applegarth with 130-year-old plane tree she is trying to save from being axed
Helen Applegarth with 130-year-old plane tree she is trying to save from being axed

"We will start work next week to widen the footpath and, unfortunately, the work will include the removal of one of the trees.

"The intention is to replace the tree in broadly the same location, but this will depend on how much of the root system can be removed and the positioning of utilities.

"Further trees will be planted to compensate for the loss in suitable locations in the vicinity of London Road.

"The work will take around two to three weeks to complete over two phases, starting this weekend with a full road closure.

"The second phase takes place between October 18 and October 28."

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