250-year-old oak tree in Welwyn Garden City gets temporary reprieve

PUBLISHED: 16:07 26 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:07 26 April 2019

Protestors gather to stop the Pentley oak tree being felled. Photo: Archant

Protestors gather to stop the Pentley oak tree being felled. Photo: Archant

Archant

An oak tree that was planned to be felled in Welwyn Garden City on Monday by Hertfordshire County Council has been given a reprieve.

Lib Dem candidate for Welwyn Hatfield Frank Marsh protesting with Libdem Hertfordshire County Councilor Dr Barbara Gibson. Photo: Archant.Lib Dem candidate for Welwyn Hatfield Frank Marsh protesting with Libdem Hertfordshire County Councilor Dr Barbara Gibson. Photo: Archant.

An oak tree that was planned to be felled in Welwyn Garden City on Monday by Hertfordshire County Council has been given a reprieve.

The 250-year-old tree, which was there long before the houses were built in the 1950s, is causing damage to a nearby dwelling close to the junction of Pentley Park and Pentley Close.

Yesterday a protest was organised, where the strength of feeling was plain to see.

“The tree was here before us,” resident Maryanne Beech, who came to show her support for the oak, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

Tree Preservation Order submitted by Welwyn Hatfield Council and held up by Councillors Patricia Mabbott and Tony Kingsbury.Tree Preservation Order submitted by Welwyn Hatfield Council and held up by Councillors Patricia Mabbott and Tony Kingsbury.

“Next year is the centenary for Welwyn Garden City. People here are very passionate about trees and greenery.”

Sir Ebenezer Howard founded Welwyn Garden City in 1920 on the principle that land would be in public ownership and integrated with the existing greenery in the area.

Hertfordshire County Council had issued the order to cut down the tree after a resident made an insurance claim because the oak's roots have caused cracks to his house.

“You can agree these things with the insurance company,” Amanda Murray, who sits on the committee of the Welwyn Garden City Horticulture Society, said.

A cut down tree. Photo: ArchantA cut down tree. Photo: Archant

“Roots can be underpinned to prevent damage. If big trees are taken out or cut down, the sinkage [of the house] can be more of a problem than the tree.”

Protest organiser Dr Barbara Gibson, a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Welwyn Garden City's Haldens division, told the WHT that the insurance company did not have to ask the county council to do this.

She said that assessments by experts, carried out for the Pentley resident by the insurance company, determined the tree did not have to be cut down.

Cllr Gibson added: “The insurance company said it was a nuisance and asked for it to be cut it down, regardless, which [Herts County Council] complied with.

“If it does cause more damage they are liable.”

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After speaking with the Pentley resident in question, Councillor Patricia Mabbott, who represents the Sherrards ward on Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, said the resident was “very positive about the retention of the tree,” adding: “He wants it to be saved.”

The Conservative councillor presented the borough council's Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on the oak, which will stop the tree from being chopped down for now.

“We collected residents' views and they feel very strongly about keeping it,” said Cllr Mabbott.

The county council has also temporarily stayed the tree felling after it received reports of “bat activity in and around the tree,” a spokesman said in a statement.

“As the tree is subject of an ongoing civil claim against the county council we are unable to provide further information at this time.”

Another oak tree, on the same row, has already been cut down.

The felled tree was also part of an insurance claim, but did not have the support of the resident whose house it was damaging, according to borough councillor Jean-Paul Bernard Skoczylas.

“You can understand it – your home is your asset,” said the Liberal Democrat councillor, who also represents the Sherrards ward.

“In this case they were not willing to act.”

Many of the residents who came out to save the oak tree are worried more trees could be cut down in Welwyn Garden City.

“We need to save the trees in this area from being chopped down,” resident Susan Gates said.

Welwyn Garden City Horticulture Society's Amanda believes the fault lies with the original builders of Pentley.

“They are to blame. People have had problems over the years,” she said.

Communities could soon get a say on trees under new proposals by the Conservative government on the question of tree felling.

If given the go-ahead, local authorities will need to consult the public on felling trees and report and track the trees that have been felled and replanted for the Forestry Commission.

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