Oak tree saved from the chop... but it’s a risk

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A HEALTHY 200-year-old oak tree has been saved from the chop after a homeowner claimed it was causing subsidence.

The 45ft specimen, which is considered ‘magnificent’ by Havant Borough Council’s tree expert and protected by a tree preservation order, is in the back garden of a house in Oakmont Drive, Cowplain.

The 1970s property is suffering form subsidence and the owner’s insurance company say the large oak is contributing to it and must be pulled down.

At a development management control meeting councillors were told it would cost £30,000 to underpin the property if it wasn’t felled.

And recent changes to planning laws mean insurance companies can sue local authorities for compensation if they do not allow them to fell problem trees.

Under the circumstances, planning officers at the council recommended the committee agree to felling it.

During a heated debate Councillor Richard Brown agreed with them.

But his colleagues on the committee councillors refused even though they risk incurring costs in the long run.

Cllr Brown said: ‘As much as it pains me to say remove the tree, the changes in legislation allows insurance companies to get their money back from local councils and the thing we have got to do is look at is what it’s going to cost the council and citizens of this borough.’

But Councillor Mike Wilson was vehemently opposed to the idea.

He said: ‘I have real concerns about this. It’s a significant tree, it’s part of an avenue. I understand the issues of compensation but we have got to look at these things in the long term.

‘We decided at one point it was significant enough to put a TPO on it. Even if it is pulled down there will still be issues with moisture in the soil.’

Despite recommending felling the council arboriculturalist Jamie Gargett described the tree as ‘magnificent’ and said the tree was a contributor to the problems and not the only cause.

Permission was given to fell the tree in 2005 because of the subsidence but it ran out in 2007.

Following a heated debate the committee reached deadlock and chairman, Councillor Paul Buckley, used his casting vote to save the tree.