Plea to save sycamore tree as Duke Street plot goes to auction yet again

The tree at the site and the proposed new build

A plot in Margate Old Town is due to go under the hammer – again – at an auction on December 16.

The land was sold off by Thanet council in 2017, raking in an astonishing £200,000 above the £70,000 guide price.

The site formed part of a larger redevelopment scheme known as the Queen’s Arms Yard

An application was lodged with Thanet council in November 2017 to build a four-story property with a shop and seven flats on the ‘scrubland’ at Duke Street. This was approved in June 2018, with some amendments.

Photo Clive Emson auctions

But environmental campaigners say the building plans will mean the destruction of one of the Old Towns only trees.

The permission is for the erection of a four storey building with four, one-bedroom and one, two-bedroom flats along with retail on the ground floor. Three objections to the proposals were lodged with TDC.

Now it is back up for auction, with the planning permission, for a whopping guide price of £280,000-£300,000.

Campaigners from the Thanet Trees group say they will campaign against any felling because the development will mean the destruction of greenery and bird habitat.

They add that the key issue is the tree has protections that were never considered in the application decision and the community had tried to take the site on as a community garden but the consultancy money evaporated.

Tree campaigners Tony Wait, Dosh Archer and Chris Wilson Photo Frank Leppard

A demonstration is planned to take place at the Duke Street site on December 5 at 11am

The event post says: “NO consideration has been given to the tree in the plans. And there is also the fact that the money that once was available for a community garden in this spot seems to have gone AWOL.”

Member Tony Waite says he has lived in the Old Town for 33 years and seen the tree grow over that time.

The artist said: “It is important to save it as the tree is one of the only ones in the Old Town and can be seen from all angles.

“It is greenery and a place for birds and wildlife. People are just cutting trees and shrubbery down but we need greenery.

“I have lived in the Old Town for 33 years and seen it grow. I go past it every day when I take my dog to the beach. I do not agree with the building proposal, it is really ugly and I can’t see how the tree could stay if it is built.

“It would be really sad for the wildlife.”

An approval letter for the scheme does not forbid the felling of the tree although this cannot be done while nesting birds are present.

The letter says: “T he applicant is reminded that, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended (section 1 ), it is an offence to remove, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built.

“Planning consent for a development does not provide a defence against prosecution under this act. Trees and scrub are likely to contain nesting birds between 1st March and 31st August inclusive.

“Trees and scrub are present on the application site and are to be assumed to contain nesting birds between the above dates, unless a recent survey has been undertaken by a competent ecologist to assess the nesting bird activity on site during this period and has shown it is absolutely certain that nesting birds are not present.”

The plot can be found on the Clive Emson site here

Thanet Trees can be found on facebook here


  1. This area should not be developed better use would be a small park with benches for people to enjoy the building itself is not in fitting withe the rest of the conservation area. There is very little green area in the old town must be preserved. The road behind is an service road for the restaurants and cafés and residents who live above these premises.

    • Response, in good will; Brian, with respect, I must correct a point you make, (which is irrelevant to the subject anyway) but more importantly, it is highly misleading to others who may believe you to be correct; The road behind this land is NOT a “service road”. It is a designated “Public Highway” and “Right of Way” called “Queen Arms Yard” and, often abused by the commercial properties you describe for their own refuse storage and unlawful parking, making it impossible to use it as the “Highway” and “Right of Way” that it is. This “public highway” is therefore for all to use as such and that includes the passing over it of for emergency response vehicles in the carrying out of that public service. Your “service road” declaration here , it is simply wrong! Although innocent, that can be very misleading to others that don’t know any better. This is not helpful towards correcting the selfish abuse of others who are equally mislead by the roads lack of maintenance by Kent County Council and the neglected parking enforcement of Thanet District Council. This factual, combined gross negligence, does not re-designate a “Highway” to “service road” as you assume. A “Public Highway” must be maintaining as a “public highway”. Simple as that.
      Off subject I accept, but with respect, an important fact to get right when publishing statements to the public who may make the mistake of thinking they are learning from them, but in fact they are only reading wrong assumptions, stated by people who do not know the subject they are make declarations about and thereby, making matters worse. Please do not down grade a “Public Highway” that you contribute towards the maintenance of, respect it, use it, and if some mentally confused person starts building a boat on it (just because there is a road at the back of their building), or parking in the middle of it causing the obstruction of that “Highway” for any reason whatsoever, do point out the facts, dangers and risk and report the offence to the police. You are entitled. I do hope I have made the facts clear.

      On the subject itself, I personally respect lawful planning consent when it is granted for any land.
      That is what the process is for. Not belated board-waving protest groups after the event. That will achieve nothing by way of undoing planning permission, only spreading Covid. “Thanet Trees Group” are protesting are they? A completely ineffective and pointless process of representations post planning. And, too little, too late? Why not effectively and sooner?
      “Birds nest” loop holes? for goodness sake!, Really?
      Haven’t some people got anything more important to worry about at the moment?
      My excuse is, I’ve got Covid 19, I am working from home, it’s my tea break, and frankly, I personally have more to worry about than belated whingeing, a placard-waving meeting and finding a birds nest at all cost! because you didn’t like the planning consent outcome and can’t think how to obstruct Margates future development after that process failed and, whilst we are all locked-in! It’s enough to make you swear.

      What happened to respecting the due process? What happened to common sense? What happened to
      the order of priorities dictated by sanity? Unbelievable!
      God help us all.
      (name and address openly provided)

  2. The last person who bought it dug down and found at 12 feet down plenty of water as a river used to flow though the area ,to build on it there is a lot of drainage to be down otherwise something that big will collapse

  3. My God! the design of this proposed building is truly abysmal. Cheap and functional giving no thought to the general character of the area. We are talking about the old Town for goodness sake. Architects, hang your heads in shame and get back to the drawing board.

    • Yep, modern architecture is mostly grotesque-we already have the Turder Centre as a beacon of bad taste & soulless design.

  4. This seems to go against all of the good work by the Civic Society and the preservation of the Old Town area… The proposed building is not at all in keeping with the area in size or appearance. We used to have what was Finlays, newsagents, and easy access through the service road was essential for our deliveries.

  5. What an awful design of building, bland, uninteresting and not at all in keeping withTHE OLD TOWN.. it looks exactly like scores of similar buildings that can be seen all over the county and Isle and displays no character or ‘age’ at all.
    TDC planning at its most incompetent again!

  6. Just because somebody had a punt by spending loads of cash on a bit of land doesn’t mean TDC has to help him out by giving planning permission for building so he can make lots more money. Surely , each case must be judged on its merits.
    In this case, there is a large tree and greenery in an area that could benefit from greenery.
    A need for homes? Just walk up and down High St and take note of the empty shops and offices that may never flourish as commercial premises again. Thanks to Westwood ,really.
    Or glance up at the empty rooms above the surviving shops premises. Turn THOSE into flats before even thinking of environmental destruction.

    • Keefogs- you know the commonsense solution you propose in the last sentence of your comment is not going to happen- not while we have a Tory government anyway. No local council in Britain could afford to compulsorily purchase and then repair/rebuild to current standards the empty properties in its area.

      It’s also getting more difficult for councils to refuse planning permission.

  7. This is the National Tree Week, so TDC should be ensuring the conservation of this particular tree in the conservation area, and also planting trees all over Thanet by the thousands, not doing the opposite. The only reason they can be allowing the destruction of important trees in Thanet is because someone is getting bungs and false promises from the developers. Why do we accept this continual corruption in Thanet when elsewhere council’s are waking up to the environmental emergency? It is nothing but in name here! People must stand up to TDC and stop these useless planning department decisions. The leader should be ashamed of themselves!

    • If you have evidence of your most serious allegation that Council Officialsxare taking bribes then you should do the right thing and raise it with the police.
      And if you don’t have evidence, then you’re committing a libel.
      BRW, how many trees have you planted this week?

  8. I don’t think it’s necessarily happening because “someone is getting bungs…from the developers.” But I’d certainly like to know if someone is.

  9. TDC should have kept this land to solve Thanet’s two biggest issues. They should have built a 24/7 public toilet and camper van site there instead. How dare they try and make some money to prevent Council Tax increases.

  10. Planning are corrupt and inept. They pass the most horrendous buildings off that sit incongruously to their surroundings; in this case, a conservation area. Why do TDC always do the wrong thing? Is it a fat bung from developers again like the fat bung they probably got from passing a Mc Donald’s off situated less than 400 metres from a school despite opposition from residents and councillors. They’ve also been caught selling off public land with a covenant to a developer denying it had one when TDC held the covenant!!!! How many times is this corrupt council going to be allowed to get away with it? They should be removed and prosecuted.

    • All you’ve got to do, Doona, is raise your concerns with the Local Government Ombudsman and/or the police.
      Casting aspersions on here won’t change anything.

  11. Sycamore trees are not a protected tree they are an invasive tree. Bought in from abroad they are extremely damaging with roots as wide as the tree is high they suckup all the water from the surrounding area drying out the soil and causing heave and subsidence they cannot by law have a preservation order on them .

  12. Stan, I hope so! An ugly conifer which impoverishes the soil around it as well as being the cause of many disputes and hostile relationships with neighbours.

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