Campaigners last ditch attempt to save Silver Birch in Westgate fails with felling ‘scheduled for morning’

One tree has already been cut Photo Carl Hudson

Tree campaigners say a last ditch attempt to secure an emergency order on a Silver Birch in Westgate has failed – meaning they now expect contractors to fell it tomorrow morning (May 5).

The tree is one of two earmarked for removal, with a sycamore already being chopped, at Elm Court in Elm Grove. Neither tree has a preservation order on it.

Members of Thanet Trees say a bid by the district tree officer for an emergency preservation order on the birch failed and landowners Orbit are due to cut it down at 8am tomorrow.

The tree on the left is still under threat Photo Alan Chapman

Campaigners say they have been told two saplings will be planted to replace each tree felled.

A Thanet Trees spokesperson said: “Thanet Trees is concerned to learn that Orbit Homes plan to go ahead with the felling of a beautiful silver birch at Elm Court despite an urgent request to implement an emergency TPO to protect this tree.

“We believe Orbit Homes is putting profit before residents’ concerns and the urgent need to protect all mature trees in Thanet, which has an ever diminishing tree canopy of less than 4% in total.

“Last week residents raised an alert that two trees were due to be felled in their parking lot. Unfortunately Thanet Trees were not able to raise the alert fast enough and a lovely sycamore was heavily pollarded before Thanet council planning enforcement were able to get on site and check whether the trees had a Tree Preservation Order. In the meantime work was halted.

“Thanet council were then able to ascertain the trees did not have TPOs and the silver birch will therefore be felled tomorrow morning. The reason given is that the roots have been cut to prevent a trip hazard in the washing area. Orbit therefore seem to believe the tree will fall any minute now and urgently needs removing to protect residents, who told us they are unconcerned and desperately want the tree to stay.

“Tree experts have ascertained this is not grounds for felling a healthy tree. And especially not an urgent reason to work during lockdown.

“Orbit claim they will plant saplings to replace the felled trees. Saplings cannot replace the amazing benefits of mature trees, which mitigate pollution and offer biodiverse wildlife havens in an ever more urbanised area. Silver Birch are especially good for mitigating pollution, and are ideal in a parking lot, where they offer dappled shade for the cars underneath.

“Thanet Trees are dismayed that Thanet council has been unable to secure an emergency TPO for this tree, despite declaring it a fine specimen. We do not believe there is an adequate process to secure TPOs quickly and have put in a Freedom of Information request to ask what due process there is in place to acquire an emergency TPO in Thanet.”

Dan Bird, Head of Estate Services at Orbit, said: “We place a huge importance on the green spaces that make up our communities and actively seek to ensure that they are cared for and able to be enjoyed by local residents.

“The roots of the trees in question have been causing significant damage to an area of the residential car park. It’s our duty to ensure customer safety and we have therefore, sought further advice from a specialist tree contractor on how to best manage the situation.”

Thanet Trees members say they are now asking the council to update the online TPO search facility on the website so it is less difficult to use and have asked for an outline of the powers the council tree officer has in terms of planning and protection.

They have also asked when TDC will be announcing climate emergency plans, saying increasing protection of mature trees in Thanet should be a central component, and are demanding “a better strategy is put in place” to urgently protect all mature trees in Thanet.

Kent tree and pond warden Peter Hasted added: ” Whilst Orbit has authorised the removal of two living trees, there are two dead trees on the opposite perimeter. It is known that standing dead wood provides habitat for a much larger number of invertebrates although I doubt that the reason they have been left standing.

“Both trees scored badly when assessed and neither of them can be preserved with an order. Residents are been encouraged to write to Orbit to stop the removal.”

Thanet council has been asked for comment.


  1. What a travesty. They cannot possibly replace what benefits are gained from a mature tree with a sapling, they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

  2. It seems the tree officer wants us all to choke healthy trees should not be felled a lot of housing associations are doing this if there are car parks near homes they protect residents from car pollution all done in the name of saving money.

  3. There are no trip hazzards there which Orbit are stating. Cutting perfectly healthy mature trees down just in case their roots cause damage is not a good excuse at all. The silver birch should be saved at all costs. I hope people come out and stand in the way as a peaceful protest and TDC actually do something useful for once and issue some emergency TPO’s on the rest of the trees. Orbit should be ashamed on their attitude to that peaceful haven they have there which the residents love and want to keep as it is.

  4. Thanks for the article. I will be starting a group to lobby for change to the procedure for removing trees and for obtaining TPOs. Also to licence tree surgeons to work in Thanet. This will make it easier to regulate and ensure we support local businesses rather than in this case from Brighton! A petition to TDC to support the changes will also be launched.

    • Alan Chapman maybe you should speak or liaise with Thanet Trees lobby group before starting another group, You can find them on facebook under Thanet Trees they are a very active group.

  5. The importance of both trees to the area has been massively underestimated
    . It is clear that a bit of money spent on a good landscape gardener to have given both trees a bit more room would have massively improved the aethetic value of the area. The Birch tree needs more space. The existing raised pavement is serving no purpose other than as a boundary. If new saplings are planted to attempt to remedy the butchery they will need adequate space and support. It seems a Fire thorn hedge and giving the existing Silver Birch Tree more room preferably a round protected area might remedy the situation. Better landscaping seems necessary. The Sycamore has been butchered.

  6. Perhaps while they’re at it the company could take out the little sycamore sapling next to the pollarded sycamore.

  7. What possible reason could Orbit have for unnecessarily spending money on having the trees removed?
    Could it be that they’re concerned that if a resident or visitor tripped over a root or damage to the pavement caused by the roots, Orbit might be used for damages?

  8. Why are Orbit even employing workers all the way from Brighton during Lockdown? Only essential workers are supposed to be out at this time and this is not essential work, and also it is nesting season too. The Police should pay Orbit a visit to stop this continuing.

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