Campaigners ‘occupy’ Duke Street tree site with ‘community protest camp’ over felling plan

Protest camp: Campaigners Dan Bradley (right) . Tony Waite and Dosh Archer Photo Frank Leppard

Campaigners have ‘occupied’ the site of a Sycamore tree that is due to be felled to make way for development in Margate Old Town.

Yesterday (April 26) Thanet council issued a decision of ‘no objection’ to notice for the felling of the mature tree in Duke Street. Permission to fell the tree was originally given in 2018 as part of an approval for a planning application to develop the site.

The notification of works this month was 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 site was then sold at auction and permission subsequently granted for the flats development.

Members of the Thanet Trees and Mature Trees Matter facebook groups had mounted a campaign to save the tree.

Campaigners of new group Save The Duke Street Sycamore say they will pursue legal action and have accused Thanet council of ‘reneging’ over the community garden plan. Last week members sent a ‘notice of liability’ to Thanet council outlining the intention to seek a legal route.

Campaigners including Dosh Archer (right) Photo Carl Hudson

Campaigner Dosh Archer said: “We are members of the local community who have come together to form a group named Save The Duke.

“We have set up a protest camp on a piece of land in Duke Street Margate in order to protect a mature sycamore tree – the Duke Street Sycamore, from being felled by Thanet District Council.

“We are also here to reclaim a community garden which should have been created on this site. The Duke Street Sycamore forms part of the skyline when seen from the harbour of  Margate, and is now under a death sentence passed by Thanet District Council.

“It is one of the last remaining trees in Old Town Margate and is an essential haven for wildlife and pollinators. It cools the air in summer, provides shade and produces over 100kg of oxygen per year. This tree is an essential part of the natural flood defences and generally improves wellbeing for all.

“Now Thanet District Council have given the decision to fell the tree, despite over 70 objections, some of which refer to relevant laws which exist to protect trees such as the Duke. A block of flats which is not in keeping with the conservation area will take the place of this grand tree.

“In 2011 Thanet council announced the community garden on the site as part of the Turner Contemporary regeneration project. Instead, the land was sold at auction and the tree was ignored throughout this whole process.

“The community garden would have formed part of the Conservation Area, and would have provided a tranquil sanctuary close to the busy seafront.”

Development image

Protestors say they have questions over the legality of the permission and whether adequate ecology research was carried out. They also say the felling will be damaging to wildlife and goes against the Climate Emergency motion passed by the council in 2019.

Campaigner Abrey McKenzie said: “On April 17, observers recorded blackbird, chaffinch, blue tit, dunnock, goldfinch, house sparrow and woodpigeon in the tree. That’s a lot of birdsong which will be wiped out if Duke is cut down!

“It is nesting season and that could affect the situation dramatically. People are observing the tree on a continuous basis.”

Dosh added: “Save The Duke demand immediate and permanent protection for this healthy beautiful tree and an immediate investigation into the planning process which led to abandonment of the community garden.

“We demand that the funds allocated for the garden are accounted for and put towards the purpose for which they were intended.

“Please join or visit the camp. Visit our page to find out how you can help and get involved. We are doing this for all the people of Margate and for the future of our children.”

‘Consent given in 2018’

Thanet council says the notice of liability is not valid and the planning permission, including the tree felling, pre-dates its climate emergency declaration.

A council spokesperson said: “Consent to approve the felling of the sycamore tree in Duke Street, Margate was granted by the Planning Committee in June 2018, prior to the Climate Emergency declaration.

“At the time, greater weight was given to using the site, which is in a Conservation Area, in a positive way and the recent notice to the council of intention to fell the tree took this previous permission and full planning analysis into consideration.

“The ‘notice of liability’ which has been raised has no legal grounds and is not a valid route to challenge this decision.”

Thanet council says that whilst the decision from 2018, before the Climate Emergency was declared, will mean the loss of the tree, the authority will be working hard to ensure that many more trees are planted across the district.

The council adds that as part of the new tree strategy it will also be reviewing its planning policies to ensure that they are effective and to place more value on trees on development sites.

The spokesperson added: “The council is currently developing a district-wide tree strategy to plan where trees can be added and what species would be suitable in each specific area. Our Local Plan also includes a biodiversity net gain policy which has to be considered when determining all planning applications.”

The council has previously advised the applicant that the tree cannot be felled during the bird nesting season and that it is an offence to remove, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built.

Follow the campaign at the Thanet Trees and Mature Trees Matter facebook pages.

Find the Save The Duke page here 

A petition to save the tree can be found here

Thanet council raises ‘no objection’ to felling of Duke Street tree


  1. Excellent! Let’s hope the UK’s national press and TV help expose TDC’s “Climate Emergency” hypocrisy.

  2. Lol you walk around thanet all you smell is weed, and now we have a group of tree huggers who want to save a weed tree lol.

    What is it about thanet and weed ?!?!

    As has been said a sycamore is not a town tree but a woodland tree. Its self seeded invasive non native tree for heaven’s sake.

    They arent nice tree’s, support very little wildlife. They are a messy tree there saps sticks to every thing.

    If this was a beautiful town tree than I would be supporting the protesters but honestly a sycamore, get real

      • I do find it funny when you point out some home truths, and people have no response to your lost that they just resort to calling your post “shitty chat”

    • Mr Chance, please feel free to come along for an informative chat at the campaign site. You, like the living environment around us will welcome you. Then we can discuss the value many of us put on the values you have , when it comes to the loss of our promised garden, and the effect that it might have on the values of the property already there.

      It seems from your comments that the notion of the missing funds is as irrelevant as the loss of an important community resource ? Shall we discuss the success rate of new trees actually becoming established under this authority , then compare it with the loss of a mature habitat.

      Please come and take advantage of the learning opportunities that the Sycamore of Duke St can offer those less woke than they aught to be.

      • You cant have a garden which wont have sun light as nothing will grow under a huge sycamore tree.

        No one will use the garden because every think in and around the garden will be covered in horrible stick sap

        If I was planning that space as a garden I would take down the sycamore for the above reason and plant 3 or 4 suitable species that grow about 10 to 15 foot in height.

        At the moment it is a waste site with a self seeded invasive non native tree. I would say that area is an asset to margate.

        The reason new trees have trouble getting going is down the free draining soil, only about a 1 meter of soil before chalk. Plus people planet at the wrong time of year.

        As for the funds for a garden that’s a different argument.

        Thanks for the invitation but I find trying to discuss things with people with a little subject is a waste of time.

        Like I have said of it was a beautiful tree like an oak, ash, certain species of sycamore are nice ( but not this one ) than I would be saying save it. This sycamore wasnt planeted by anyone it grow there because no was maintaining the site. If the site had been managed no one in their right mind would have allowed it get start. It’s a woodland tree not a town tree.

  3. So, democratic processes having failed to get the results Thanet Trees wants, a group is now resorting to trespass and criminal damage.
    And what for? A completely incongruous tree, an invasive species.
    For goodness sake grow up, do something useful. Go and plant some trees somewhere.

  4. It’s a nice-looking tree but it’s in the wrong place. Its growth will be -and has probably already been- hampered because it is in a town and the subsoil is now severely disrupted by sewers, cables,plumbing and so on. As Phyllis says, give up on this one. Stop putting all the blame on the council. Perhaps too the repeated use of the term “demand” is not a good choice for a group which wants the council to do something for it.

  5. Quote
    “This tree is an essential part of the natural flood defences”

    How is it ?

    Most floods tend to happen in the winter which is the dominant period for a tree and would not be taking up much if any water from the water table.
    So how is one tree part of a flood defences ?
    Honestly I have near heard of trees being used to stop flooding.

    • well Mr Chance where are you coming from? of course trees stop flooding why do you think so many places flood because trees been taken away the tree roots bind the soil together which in turn stops the movement of the soil watch some nature programmes you might learn something

      • When you plant trees on a hill side, then they slow down the flow of water following heavy rain, thus easing the pressure on rivers and villages and towns downstream.
        If you’re worried about flooding in Margate, you could encourage people to dig up their paved over driveways and replace with permeable stuff.
        I don’t think we need to know, lesley, about your STDs.

        • Bang on Phyllis paved driveways and decking are doing more to cause local flooding than a removal of a weed tree.

          Paved driveways and decking are doing so much harm to our local wildlife from bees to birds etc.

        • Why are you getting so cross, Ms Peeling? And so thouroughly unpleasant in your tone and vocabulary?

    • God …..what an ignoramus. Personally I have never been aware that birds reject a sycamore over a beech to sit on because it is ‘merely’ graded as an inferior specimen! No, quite the contrary, birds sit on All tree species. It’s the human race and certain uneducated folk that like to down play the significance that any mature tree makes to wildlife, flooding, air quality and mitigating the affects of climate change. Go back to school or get yourself a book darling … obviously need to educate yourself!

      • Perhaps you’d save us the effort: how will a tree save Margate from flooding? How will it affect climate change?

  6. Well Lesley peeling I agree with you that tree roots help bind the soil but thats more to do with stopping land slides. Tree would never take up enough water to bring flood water down , never.

    I think you are confusing landslides with flooding.

    I do watch nature programmes I have also work with nature for over 40 years. When stopping flooding we put in drains etc to take the water away. Funny enough flooding normally recurred when the tree roots blocked the drainage pipes 😉

  7. Totally agree with Mr Chance. I’m all for saving, and planting, trees but you do need to pick your battles. A sycamore is a non-native, invasive species often thought of as an annoying weed as it seeds easily and it’s dense canopy limits ground growth. This bit of ground is little more than a dumping ground and may as well be developed – sympathetically with the old town not a modern block please. Maybe the council could plant a mature tree or three somewhere nearby instead or these campers can do something positive and apply to KCC for some street trees.

  8. Margate old town needs spaces like this where people can just relax, and perhaps have a few tables outside for the diner next door to use, no another ugly modern building that will fill up the last bit of open space.

  9. Let’s hope that they clear up after themselves and use a proper toilet!

    Does this sort of behaviour count as actively seeking employment?

  10. Why not go and occupy the beer garden at broadstairs pavilion where they have just cut down the trees before anyone could say anything. 🌲

  11. Those hideous (in my opinion, of course) coniferous (I think-not a very clear photo) lollipops, you mean?

  12. I think some argumentative people in here have forgotten what the point is of the argument . Rather than chatting about an invasive tree it is the symbol of the community garden that is being unjustly removed and replaced by yet another building when Thanet barely has any trees in comparison to other areas. Invasive or not that tree is doing it’s bit for the environment and for the air that we breathe

    • Absolutely Sue, also it’s yet ANOTHER tree being removed that isn’t to be replaced.

      Look at old photos of Thanet and you’ll see that many streets were tree-lined, whether that be cul-de-sacs (like Garfield Road in Westbrook, where I lived for many years) or Station Road in Westgate-on-Sea, yet now they’re long gone.

      I live next door to a couple of mature Sycamore trees, and the supposed stickiness pales in comparison to the parakeets, blackbirds and finches that were chirping away in them last night (though I’m sure someone here will point out that at least one of these birds is an “invasive species”!).

      Peace, people.

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