Protesters dig in to stop Gosport willow tree being given the axe

CHAINED From left Sam Davies, Loraine Smith, and John Hall, with the chain, donated by Electro Trade, in North Cross Street, Gosport. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (122618-3)
CHAINED From left Sam Davies, Loraine Smith, and John Hall, with the chain, donated by Electro Trade, in North Cross Street, Gosport. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (122618-3)
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PROTESTERS unhappy with plans to cut down an old willow tree to make way for a hotel have asked developers to reconsider – or they’ll chain themselves to it.

Neighbours and dog walkers who enjoy walking by the tree at the Holbrook centre in Gosport say they were sad to learn it was being chopped down.

Gosport Borough Council, which has brought in developers to build a new leisure centre and hotel there, say the tree is distorted and of low value.

But now a campaign is building to change the council’s mind by people who like the tree – distorted roots and all.

Loraine Smith, 68, of The Limes, in Gosport, said: ‘It’s a beautiful tree and it grows as nature intends.

‘My friends said they would chain themselves to it and I said I would join them if we could find a chain big enough.

‘I can remember the tree from way back when I worked at the old Holbrook school.

‘It was a small tree then and now it’s grown into something great.’

The council conducted an arboricultural report into the site which found the tree was of a low value.

A number of other trees nearby were also found to be in a poor state and will be removed and replaced.

Gosport’s council added conditions on to the planning permission for the development to make sure a new landscape is built to compensate for the greenery being removed.

The leader of the council, Councillor Mark Hook, said: ‘The tree itself is a poor specimen and there is no tree preservation order on it.

‘Therefore it will come down but there will be replacement planting on the site.

‘I think it’s a very small price to pay for a 64-bed hotel which is much-needed in Gosport. There will be new landscaping but of course the whole environment there will change with the new pool and play areas.

‘But there will still be plenty of grass space for people to enjoy and walk their dogs.’

Work is progressing on the construction of Gosport’s new leisure park, at the site in Forest Way.

Once complete, there will be a new swimming pool and leisure centre along with a hotel and restaurant.

Work on the first stage of the project, the construction of a new swimming pool, is due to finish later this year.