Villagers are locked in a bitter planning row with property developers as they fight to save a ‘stately’ 140-year-old Victorian tree from being felled to make way for 500 homes. Residents are campaigning to save the 80ft (30m) cedar tree, valued by surveyors at £165,000, from being felled as part of a new estate being built in Keresley, Warks.
Last year Bellway Homes was given permission to build 550 homes with more than 100 trees that would need to be felled as part of the plans. But locals are furious that the giant cedar tree – which has a circumference of 160ft (50m) – is among those to be lost as a result of the proposals.
They say the sprawling tree is home to tawny owls, hedgehogs, birds and other wildlife and also acts as a noise barrier for traffic along Tamworth Road. More than 60 residents have now signed a petition which has been submitted to Coventry City Council ahead of the local authority’s final decision on the plans in June.
The campaign is led by grandmother Ann Evans, 74, who lives up the road and says the tree could easily live to be a thousand years old. She is also concerned about pollution issues and that houses under construction will begin to encroach on nearby old-growth forests.
Ann, who has lived on the road for 36 years, said: “It is such a beautiful and truly majestic tree and we are furious that they are trying to cut it down. It is a very important tree to the residents. If it was somewhere else, there would be a plaque on it, it’s absolutely huge and it’s a thing of beauty that should be protected.
“The tree over there was part of three tree plantations. There was the cedar, three monkeys and three Scots pines. They were notable trees from the Victorian era, so they’ve been here a very long time.
“We used to have a historian who was on the parish council, he said the lands date back to 1880 and he confirmed it was well over 100 years old. We saw tawny owls there, hedgehogs regularly hibernate there during the winter, it’s also full of birds and other wildlife.
“You simply cannot replace a tree like this. Surveyors have assessed it as Grade A1, which means it is in exceptional condition and of exceptional value.
“They even go so far as to put a monetary value on it, and this particular tree is worth £165,000. You can walk into the tree and look up and it’s like being in a forest. It’s always green.
“Its color stays all year round. It’s beautiful and we all love it. We are also worried about pollution if that happens, the trees are very important for environmental protection but they just don’t seem don’t worry about it.”
Bellway Homes has promised to plant more trees to make up for the losses, but needs to get more details of its plan approved before work can start on the homes.
Ann, mum-of-one, a retired administrator, added: “The developers just seemed very disrespectful. They want to cut down 120 trees to accommodate 550 houses. The whole area is part of a local wildlife belt. There are two woods here classified as old woods and they build a 20 meter buffer zone up to the wood.
“The Woodland Trust recommends a buffer zone of 100 meters so we are obviously concerned about the impact on other parts of our campaign. We are all aware of the noise and pollution this could cause.
“We try our best, but when you go after big companies like this, it’s always hard to succeed.”
Another local resident, father of three, Jeremy Anderson, 55, added: “This tree is part of our community, it’s an amazing thing that enhances the landscape. It would be criminal of them to cut it down. “
Coventry City Council said the authority would not comment.
Bellway Homes has been approached for further comment.