A protest is planned to take place over an application to fell a Sycamore tree in Margate’s Old Town.
Members of Mature Trees Matter, alongside Thanet Trees group, will protest from 8am until 5pm on Saturday (April 17) at the Duke Street site.
The application has been submitted by Duns Developments, based in Luton, for removal of the tree to clear the site ahead of building a four-storey property with five flats and a commercial unit.
The area the tree is in 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, including a reduction in the number of flats.
The plot has since been to auction a further two times.
Thanet Trees group is now urging councillors to call in the decision to go to planning committee. Last year the group launched a campaign to save the tree from being lost due to the development.
Now an objection lodged by the group says the mature tree is much needed and in a Conservation Area.
They add: “Thanet council sold off a designated community garden for development at auction, then agreed planning with no further consideration for the fate of the largest tree in Margate Old Town.
“A pre-application meeting was held on site with a planning officer and the conservation officer – neither of whom appear to have mentioned the tree at all. Despite trying to raise this issue with local ward councillors for the past two years, we have been completely ignored. There is no mention of the tree in any of the designs or documents, let alone the required analysis of its merits, potential and importance.”
Thanet Trees says work has been carried out this week and raise the issue of whether Root Protection Area considerations have been implemented.
They add: “This tree is currently protected because it is situated in a Conservation Area and agreement to fell has not been given.”
Questions have also been raised over whether root works being undertaken are legal when the application to fell has not yet been decided and whether Kent County Council policy for the protection of trees on development sites has been ignored.
The group adds: “Given the stipulations of our new Local Plan and the declaration of a Climate Emergency in 2019, it is shocking that the felling of this vital Sycamore tree was ever considered acceptable. It is not acceptable.
“In the Local Plan it is noted that “Seafront areas are important to the vitality and viability of the coastal town centres as they attract tourists and provide a natural leisure focus for the towns in close proximity to the High Streets and main shopping areas. As such, it is important that leisure and tourism uses are encouraged here that are complementary to the town centres and encourage economic growth.
“Trees and green areas are much needed in Margate Old Town, a space almost entirely devoid of natural vegetation, in a district with one of the lowest canopy coverage in the UK.
“This whole sorry episode is a travesty that must be exposed and queried at the highest level. We cannot fell our precious mature trees in barren urban centres, we must retain them and we need to plant many more – and not just in the easy spaces such as parks.
“Mature trees produce loads of oxygen, they store and soak up carbon and carbon dioxide, they clean the air, protect us from flooding, keep things cool, provide a home for wildlife (the flowers providing food for pollinators, bark providing a refuge for countless insects, and the canopies providing rest for exhausted migratory birds who have ever decreasing places to settle as they arrive on our coastline) and of course they are good for our mental health and wellbeing.
“This application must be called in by councillors immediately.”
To view the application go to Thanet council’s planning page and search for reference TCA/TH/21/0386