Campaigners gather to protest plans to chainsaw oak tree to make space for a road
More than 20 people – many donning over-sized buck teeth and one dressed as a squirrel – gathered at the tree in Telford Place, next to Crawley Library, on Saturday (November 11).
The tree is at risk of the chop because it sits in the way of an access road planned to lead to a development of up to 300 affordable flats in blocks between four and 12 storeys high.
The application was due to be considered by Crawley Borough Council’s planning committee on Tuesday (November 14) but was not on the agenda as officers had not finished preparing the report.
Led by Three Bridges resident John Cooban, the campaigners had no issue with the housing plans, viewing them as sensible – just the loss of the tree.
Their placards sent messages such as ‘Save the tree in ’23 for what it does for carbon-free’, ‘How affordable is urban tree loss?’, and a graphic of a hard-hatted ‘villain’ taking a chainsaw to a tree represented by the council’s own logo.
Mr Cooban called on the council and its development partners Affordable Housing & Healthcare Group Ltd to look into an ‘urgently negotiated re-design’ of the acess road so that the tree could stay.
Pointing out that it was ‘almost unthinkable’ that the application would not be permitted, he added: “The paradox seems to be that to continue on this course would only attract further disquiet which, if a committee goes with a recommendation to permit, can only lead to a showdown at the point of contractors arriving to fell the tree.
“This would come with the risk to Crawley of long-term reputational fall-out.
“Yet the consequences of a committee decision to refuse would seem just as absurd.”
Mr Cooban also predicted an ‘awkward’ situation for the council should the plans be refused and Affordable Housing & Healthcare Group Ltd launch an appeal to the planning inspectorate.
Such a move would leave the council, as Local Planning Authority, having to defend itself against its its own housing department’s plan – which could be costly as well as embarrassing.
He added: “This is why an urgently negotiated re-design that retains the tree seems the obvious way forward.”
A council spokesman said it was hoped that the application would be put to the planning committee on December 4.
To view the application, log on to planningregister.crawley.gov.uk and search for CR/2023/0357/OUT.