Some 40 residents have taken part in a demonstration to protect a sycamore tree in Margate Old Town against being felled.
Campaigners gathered in Duke Street yesterday (December 5) to plan how to protect the tree, on a plot of land which was previously considered for a community garden.
It was one of two plots that were earmarked as garden sites under a Countdown to Turner scheme in 2011.
However despite a spend of £7,881 on design, consultation and soil sample for the site and another at Cobbs Place, the gardens did not come to fruition.
The Duke Street site eventually went to auction as part of the council’s asset disposal programme in 2017 and was bought for an astonishing £270,000, way 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 shop and seven flats on the ‘scrubland’ at Duke Street. This was approved in June 2018, with some amendments.
But environmental campaigners say the building plans will mean the destruction of one of the Old Town’s 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.
Now the plot is back up for auction, with the planning permission, for a whopping guide price of £280,000-£300,000.
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: “The 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.”
A Thanet Trees spokesperson said: “Thanet District Council spent a vast amount of money on consultancy fees with local residents before deciding to sell the land at auction as part of their ongoing asset disposal.
“The land was sold for a hugely elevated price, even though it then had no agreement for planning. Planning has since been approved to build a carbuncle. This was despite over 40 objections from concerned locals. This heinous design will be an eyesore in a Conservation Area and will require the felling of one of only trees in Margate Old Town, and by far the largest one.
“It is visible over the rooftops from Margate seafront and provides a value mature ecosystem and habitat for wildlife, including migrating birds in urgent need of a safe haven to land after their passage across the sea, bats -which are protected and love sycamore trees- and insects.
“We are in the middle of a biodiversity emergency, with over half our wildlife lost in the past 50 years. Mature habitats are the UK’s amazon, and we must treasure them. Saplings can never replace mature habitats and mature trees.
“The preservation status of this tree was not even considered in the planning application that was passed and we query whether this is legal. Thanet Trees demand that this tree is saved, that TDC is held accountable for poor planning decisions and the ongoing felling of mature trees. We demand that TDC acts now to uphold its lofty Climate and Biodiversity Emergency promises.
“Members of Thanet Trees and Margate Old Town residents pledge to do all we can to save the Duke Street Sycamore.”
The site goes under the hammer with Clive Emson auctioneers on December 16.