CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a century-old tree united beneath its branches to protest.

Protesters met on Between Towns Road in Cowley yesterday morning, in opposition of plans to cut down a distinctive chestnut tree.

Oxford City Council wants to remove the tree at the former Murco garage site, as part of a 38-home development due to be built there.

A report stated it was in ‘poor structural condition’ and the council had safety concerns about the risk of branches falling on people.

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City councillor David Henwood, who represents Cowley, said: “This tree is a teenager - it is just 100 years old and chestnuts live for approximately 300 years.

"During the 100 years it has been alive it has taken a tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and given us 2060 pounds of oxygen every season.”

He also highlighted the historical value, adding: “It was planted by the Gibbons family 100 years ago when this site was a bakery, so it is really part of our fabric in Cowley and it is the last part of old Cowley that still stands.”


Mr Henwood has suggested that ‘progressively pollarding’ the chestnut tree, which is a method of pruning, would be a better solution.

However, a spokesperson from the city council said: “If the tree were retained we would have to heavily prune or pollard it repeatedly to ensure the public is safe from falling branches.

"This would remove most of the branches and dramatically reduce the leaf cover, and there would be a high risk that just the first pruning or pollarding would kill the tree due to its age and poor condition.”

He added: “Our expert arboriculturalist inspected the tree in May 2015 – long before the redevelopment of the site was proposed – with a view to protecting it with a tree preservation order, but concluded this was not appropriate because of the tree’s poor structural condition and short life expectancy.”

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Rosanne Butler, who is part of the protest group fighting to save the tree, said: “It’s been here ever since I came to Cowley 60 years ago.

"First of all I think I ought to commend the council for their policy on climate change, because I do love the idea of them giving out to schools and local groups lots of saplings to plant, because we do need trees - they are the lifeblood of clearing away pollution.

"This lovely old mature tree should be kept because it is an oxygen factory.”

Campaigners held a banner saying 'don't be bonkers, save our conkers' during the protest, which took place at 10am.

Chris Bonfiglioli, a Cowley resident who attended, said: “I’m very concerned about this development.

"I think this tree is emblematic of the nature that is remaining in this area and we need more natural things like trees.

"We are in the middle of a climate emergency the city council has declared a climate emergency - cutting down trees is not the right way to go.”

An online petition calling for a tree protection order to be put in place to preserve the tree has now been signed by more than 1,100 people with 809 more signatures needed to reach their goal.

Oxford City Council is to debate an issue if a petition reaches 1,500 signatures.