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Veteran oak tree saved from the axe as council retains protection status

PUBLISHED: 16:59 20 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:00 20 November 2017

District Cllr Alison Webb at the site of an oak tree in Dereham, that has been saved by a preservation order. Picture: Ian Burt

District Cllr Alison Webb at the site of an oak tree in Dereham, that has been saved by a preservation order. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

Campaigners battling to save one of Dereham’s oldest oak trees are celebrating a victory for nature over concrete after developers were told it should not be felled to build an access road for a proposed housing scheme.

An oak tree on the Etling View housing development site in Dereham, has been saved by a preservation order. Picture: Ian Burt An oak tree on the Etling View housing development site in Dereham, has been saved by a preservation order. Picture: Ian Burt

Breckland Council planners unanimously rejected Taylor Wimpey’s application to remove the Tree Preservation Order on the veteran tree which is one of nine protected specimens bordering its current Etling View development off Norwich Road and a proposed site for a further 62 homes on the next field.

Known as T7, the oak tree stands directly in the path of a proposed access road to the new scheme, although the council has yet to determine the housing application.

In a supplementary report to planners, who met this morning, the applicants said: “No viable alternative vehicular access exists into this site.”

But Breckland’s tree and countryside officer Hugh Coggles said arboricultural consultants commissioned by the developer reported in 2015 that the tree was a category A species that should be retained and protected.

The oak tree which Taylor Wimpey wants to remove to create a new access road onto a development of a further 62 homes at Etling View The oak tree which Taylor Wimpey wants to remove to create a new access road onto a development of a further 62 homes at Etling View

Dereham Town Council also objected and clerk Tony Needham said the oak had been highly valued in European culture since time immemorial.

“The history of England is intertwined with the oak and removing one should not be taken lightly,” he said. “Taylor Wimpey has had ample opportunity to produce a low cost option to retain the tree. No doubt if the TPO is retained, the application (for the 62 homes) will be back next month with that option.”

Campaigner Paul Walmsley said that planners should not consider the “incovenience” it is causing the developer.

District councillor Alison Webb, who represents Dereham, said the consultants had given the tree a life of 40-plus years back in 2015.

The oak tree, at number 1, which Taylor Wimpey wants to remove to create a new access road onto a development of a further 62 homes at Etling View The oak tree, at number 1, which Taylor Wimpey wants to remove to create a new access road onto a development of a further 62 homes at Etling View

“Now they are saying it is in a state of advanced decay,” she said. “It was one of three, out of 38 trees, given category A rating which means it is a particularly good example and an essential component of the landscape.

“Taylor Wimpey wants to create a road for an application the council has not even made a decision on. They could have chosen a different route but it suits them to demolish part of Dereham’s heritage.”

The application for the 62 homes was deferred at the applicant’s request.

The oak tree’s role in history

As part of his submission to Breckland Council in favour of keeping the tree preservation order, town council clerk Tony Needham related a number of key dates in history where the oak tree played an important role.

* It was so highly valued by King Edward III that when he ordered all trees and bushes to be cut back he excepted the oak tree

* Robin Hood hid in an oak tree

* Charles II hid in an oak tree

* Robert Kett led his rebellion from an oak tree

* The British Navy defeated the French in ships made from oak.

He could also have added:

* The Yule Log, decorated for Christmas, was traditionally cut from oak

* The image of an oak tree has appeared on the reverse of the pound coin

* The National Trust uses a sprig of oak leaves and acorns as its emblem

* ‘The Royal Oak’ is one of the most popular pub names.

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