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Tonbridge: River Lawn Green campaigners remain stationed in popular horse chestnut tree overnight to stop it being cut down for new medical centre

Campaigners have remained stationed in a tree overnight as part of a protest to stop it being cut down to make way for a new medical centre.

An action group gathered at the site off River Lawn Road in Tonbridge on Friday morning as tree surgeons were scheduled to arrive for the felling of the popular horse chestnut tree.

The site is earmarked for a new medical centre which will be constructed by healthcare property developer and investor Assura before being leased to Tonbridge Medical Group.

However, the Keep River Lawn Green action group says the felling of the tree, enjoyed by local families for generations, is not necessary to the plans.

Activist Mark Hood, 50, spent more than 10 hours perched on a branch yesterday, sharing 'shifts' with fellow campaigners.

Another has since taken up position in the tree this morning, with the group insistent they won't be leaving until the tree's future is confirmed.

The company behind the project has responded to the protests saying the move was carefully considered and based on an independent report.

Protester Mark Hood in a tree he is trying to save in River Lawn Road in Tonbridge(5583416)
Protester Mark Hood in a tree he is trying to save in River Lawn Road in Tonbridge(5583416)

An Assura spokesman said: "At the very earliest stages of this project, we explored with the council planning team and independent experts all possible options for working around the tree and if there had been a solution, we would have supported it – removing a tree is never a decision which is taken lightly.

"The tree has bleeding canker and so there is a high risk of it becoming unstable when foundations are laid for the new medical centre – creating a safety issue for patients, staff and the wider public.

"The council approved its removal based on an independent arboricultural report and after taking their own specialist advice, as detailed in the planning officer’s report. We’re keen to find a new place for the trunk in the community for the future, and are exploring options for this.”

The group has been campaigning to stop the tree being cut down for the last two years and has gathered more than 1,700 members.

A petition which started on Friday has since gained more than 700 signatures.

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