Published: 09:38, 18 December 2018
| Updated: 11:24, 18 December 2018
A tree which campaigners sat in for a whole week to prevent it from being chopped down to make way for a new medical centre can be saved, an expert report has concluded.
The group, dubbed Keep River Lawn Green, scaled the popular horse chestnut tree last month after plans for the Tonbridge-based medical centre revealed the tree would be removed.
However, healthcare property developer Assura has now published the findings of an independent assessment of the tree by chartered arboriculturist Sharon Hosegood, which said the tree can be retained "with care".
The report said the tree, which has been enjoyed by generations of youngsters just off River Lawn Road for almost a century, will need to be sensitively pruned and managed.
"It will be protected during works by a combination of ground protection and by the application of method statements," she added.
Work will also take place to help the tree establish new roots, boosting its health and condition and resistance to disease.
The report concluded: "I respect the original recommendation based on information at the time.
"It is unusual to have such a detailed investigation on a single tree as found in this report, although it is becoming increasingly common.
"The next stage is to develop method statements further and liaise with the design and construction team.
"If an unforeseen issue arises that compromises the health and stability of the tree, the tree will need to be removed following a report to all parties by way of detailed explanation.
"This is not anticipated as, based on the discussions I have had with the team, I believe that tree retention is achievable with care."
More than 1,600 people signed a petition urging the tree to be saved last month, while a handful of campaigners staged a 24-hour sit-in protest.
Activist Mark Hood, 50, said: "They have listened to our voices and understood our deep concerns that a much loved tree was going to be lost unnecessarily by our community and we thank them for their change of direction.
"We are delighted that they have taken on board the feelings of residents and thank them for their consideration of the evidence provided by our team including arboricultural and architectural experts.
"This is a massively important moment for the Keep River Lawn Green campaign.
"We are still awaiting the result of our application to designate River Lawn as a Village Green to save all nine mature trees and prevent the loss of the open space there.
"We have similarly applied for all the footpaths to be registered as Rights of Way.We have won a victory for common sense at this stage and we look forward to the challenges ahead.
"We now have the support of Paul Powlesland who has worked as a barrister with the Sheffield street trees campaign and to defend anti-fracking protestors.
"Without the help of our supporters we wouldn't be able to give you this good news, everyone who has signed a petition or collected signatures, stood under a tree or sat in it has played their part and we are very grateful."