Protected Portsmouth tree immortalised in famous artist's painting set to be cut down

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A PROTECTED tree featured in the work of a famous artist will face the axe as councillors agreed it could not be saved from decay.

The 'struggling' Lombardy poplar tree in Furze Lane, Milton, Portsmouth, survived the Second World War and was painted by artist Edward King in 1945 but will soon be cut down for the 'safety of the public.'

The row of Lombardy poplar trees in Furze Lane. Picture: Google Maps

The row of Lombardy poplar trees in Furze Lane. Picture: Google Maps

In a unanimous decision members of Portsmouth City Council's planning committee approved the felling at a meeting today after hearing how the tree could be at risk of collapse.

Speaking to the committee the council's arboricultural officer Andrew Knight said: 'Whilst the loss of any tree is unfortunate the extent of the decay should be considered in the interest of public safety.

'Given the proximity of the decay to the base of the tree it suggests an imminent failure is only a matter of time.'

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Copy picture of Edward King sitting at his easel which was taken shortly before his stroke c1951. Picture: Sarah Standing (123888-4988)

Copy picture of Edward King sitting at his easel which was taken shortly before his stroke c1951. Picture: Sarah Standing (123888-4988)

The tree makes up part of a row of poplars along the road, bordering the eastern boundary of the University of Portsmouth playing fields.

Mr Knight added: 'In 2015 a poplar on the same row of trees collapsed and crushed a bus stop. We have the opportunity to stop this one before it falls.'

Speaking at the meeting, Milton resident Janice Burkinshaw said: 'I am just asking that the tree is replaced with another poplar.

'Edward King painted these trees. These trees are a historical asset and deserve to be maintained by keeping the same species.'

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Lombardy poplar trees are known to grow quickly but usually do not live longer than 75 years.

Committee members agreed that a species of tree of similar height and shape to a Lombardy should be chosen as a replacement.

Councillor Steve Pitt said: 'Having to replace a tree every 75 years might not be the best option for the environment as you're unsettling birds that could live in them.

'If we can keep the “rhythm” of the area but with a more robust species that would be better.'

London-born artist Edward King was admitted as a patient at St James' Hospital in Milton in 1925, a year after his wife Amelia died, where he remained until his death in 1951.

During the Second World War he was commissioned to paint the aftermath of the Blitz in Portsmouth.