Villagers in battle to save two 100-year-old Sussex oak trees
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The healthy mature oaks are facing the axe because their roots are being blamed for causing subsidence at a nearby house.
The trees – in the garden of Sally and Peter Kember’s home in Acorn Avenue, Cowfold – both have preservation orders on them.
And, they say, it would be ‘devastating’ if the trees were chopped down.
But insurance agents 360 Globalnet are seeking planning permission from Horsham District Council to fell them.
Sally said: "Having lived here for nearly 30 years with my husband Peter and our kids, we’ve maintained the trees every 10 years through the planning process and always felt that we are looking after the trees for the well-being of our whole community not just for us.”
And the community is now rallying behind the Kembers in their fight to save the trees.
Scores of villagers have submitted letters to the council advocating that the oaks should stay.
"It’s about protecting and nurturing nature in our village landscape for everybody to enjoy, with the massive diversity of wildlife that they support, especially all the birds, protected bats and newts, and how they reduce pollution/fumes being close to the Cowfold Air Quality Management area – being both near the A281 and the A272,” said Sally.
“These oak trees help to reduce our carbon footprint by absorbing around 50kg of CO2 per year – each tree has locked in approximately 1 ton of carbon each, as they’re around 100 years old. So this is not only for us, but for everyone.”
She said she only found out about the application to fell the trees by chance and had been given no formal notification. “Surely this makes the application null and void,” she queried.
In a report to the council 360 Globalnet says that an alternative to felling the trees would be to install a ‘root barrier’ around them, but that would cost around £50,000.
Felling the trees, meanwhile, would cost around £15,000.
An arboricultural report from a company called Duramen recommends removing the trees but points out that the removal could cause land ‘heave’ which could potentially lead to damage to other nearby properties. It says a risk assessment should be carried out.
“Heave happens when a tree is cut down, water is no longer being absorbed by the tree roots, meaning the soil will start to swell as it gets wet,” said Sally.
“Heave will be likely to impact and damage around six or more houses in the vicinity.”
She added: “What if felling the trees doesn’t work, and there is massive heave? Which is likely. The trees will still be gone, it cannot be reversed.
“It has taken 100 years for these trees to grow.
“To be clear, we do not want our neighbour to have issues with his house of course, but there is a completely viable solution.”
One villager, in a protest letter to the council said: “The trees were standing before any of the surrounding buildings were constructed.
"There are other less drastic and less damaging options.
“Felling the trees would cause destruction to wildlife, environment, and contribute to the climate crisis."