Duke Street tree campaigners launch fundraiser for legal fight

The protest camp

Campaigners trying to save a Sycamore tree from being felled in Margate have launched a fundraiser to pay costs for a legal fight.

The Save the Duke group, who are currently on day 5 of an occupation of the site of the tree in Duke Street, is now being supported by Fight Planning Crimes, a new collective which will challenge the legalities of the planned felling.

The collective is represented by Paul Powlesland, an environmental lawyer who runs Lawyers for Nature.

Permission to fell the tree was originally given in 2018 as part of an approval for a planning application to develop the site.

A 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.

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

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 sold at auction as part of Thanet council’s asset disposal programme in February 2017. In 2018 permission was granted for the flats development. An application for a four-storey build on the site was previously approved in 2007 when the site formed part of a larger redevelopment scheme known as the Queen’s Arms Yard but that permission expired.

Campaigners including Dosh Archer (right) Photo Carl Hudson

A spokesperson for the campaign group, which wants to see the community garden plans revived and has questioned where the remainder of the £41k allocated pot for the site and Cobbs Place garden has gone, said: “We are a group of concerned individuals who have come together to challenge planning crimes against the environment in Thanet and beyond.

“To start with we are raising funds towards legal costs to challenge Thanet District Council’s approval for the felling of the Duke Street Sycamore, the largest and oldest tree in Margate Old Town.

“This is just one of many environmental and planning incidents which are indicative of our local council’s lack of care for our environment, and of a planning system which is not fit for purpose at both a local and a national level.

Photo Dave O’Dowd

“Thanet has just 4 % tree canopy cover and much less in central Margate. We believe Thanet deserves better!

“We have plenty of evidence for possible crimes against the environment (going back many years) and are being advised by a top environmental barrister who is known for successful litigation in support of nature across the UK.

“Donations (for the fundraiser)  will help us to create a better world for wildlife, residents, the visitors of Thanet, and beyond.”

Campaigners had previously handed a ‘notice of liability’ to Thanet council.

campaign poster

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 (council’s) 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.

Photo Frank Leppard

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.

The Duke Street protest camp will be hosting live music from 2pm. Find the crowdjustice page at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-the-duke-street-sycamore/

Find the petition at https://www.change.org/savetheduke

23 Comments

  1. Can I re-ask a question as the protesters didnt answer it on day 3 !!

    Question for the tree huggers.

    If the council were to give in and turn the place into a community garden would you be happy for the sycamore to be cut down ?

    Are you going to be happy with the tree being pollarded hard ? You cant leave it to grow 60 plus feet

    If your answer is No than with that type of woodland tree you cant have a small garden as nothing will grow.

    If Yes than that’s great as it could be turned into a nice community space with more smaller suitable trees for the area

    So what is the real reason for keeping the weed tree ? To stop someone building a home for human’s to live in ?

  2. If you allow for trees to be cut down without protest next it will be a woodland. HS2 is allowing 500 year trees to be cut down. All the the name of human progress. If we cut down trees in this country why would Brazil listen to us when it comes to the Amazon? It’s the same principles for not yulin festival. The Chinese think you are telling us we can’t kill dogs yet in the this country we gas pigs to death. Double standards. It takes people to stand up and say no more!

  3. One tree, a sycamore. No fruit, only Pigeons nest in them, too loose for other birds.
    Why don’t these people protest about something useful, like the 17000 new homes that are threatening the very ground we all walk on, and usefully grow a variety of foods on it?
    I know it’s only one tree, and Cambridge Council had to back down because of protest, of a sycamore.
    When Government stop arguing about the redecoration of Boris’ Flat at Number 10,perhaps we can get some normality back into this Country.(Pathetic)…
    Carry on with your protest though. I wish you luck!

    • Robster

      I have to agree with you of all the trees to try and save they choose one of the most invasive, unpopular, dirty, supports very little wildlife. Now some species of sycamore are lovely but not this species. It should be in a woodland environment, no one in their right mind would want a sycamore in a built up area, with all the mess that sticks to it sap.

      As soon as I see one self seeding in my garden I pull it up. I dont want a 60 foot sycamore in my garden. Killing all the sunlight on my lawn and flower beds, stopping me from sitting in the garden or hanging my washing out.

      It would be interesting to know if the plans for this space included the sycamore or not.

      • I too always pull out sycamore seedlings. A garden, whether small or large , is the wrong place for them.

          • Don’t be blooming silly, “Kind human”, the street I live in has been here for over 100 years and is five minutes’ walk from Ramsgate town centre.

          • Now that I know the meaning of curve ball….I don’t think any comments could come as a surprise if one has already read at least one comment by that person.

    • What decade are you living in? Apart from the fact that some look like they’re beyond retirement age, not all workers have “places of work” in this age of variable hours, self-employment and mobile devices.

  4. So other tree can’t be cut down during nesting season but any bird that was nesting has been frightened off by some protester who has decided to climb the tree. I’m sure that any wildlife that was in the area has moved on because of the disturbance caused by the protest camp being set up.

  5. aaand the HS2 destroying ancient woodland just to save a few minutes on a few peoples journey again for mans’ greed I hope it chokes the lot of them.

    • Yep, the destruction to the nations mature tree stock by HS2 is a significant impact. The notional replanting is nothing but a bit of greenwashing , no one really believes that the areas planted will be left alone for 500 years to provide the habitats lost just as the wildlife displaced can hardly take a holiday somewhere waiting for the regrowth to happen.
      Personally i see HS2 as a white elephant , solution looking for a problem , unneeded in a country the size of the uk, complete waste of money , unnecessarily destructive, etc etc.
      But i just have to hope that those with control of the levers of power are much brighter and forward thinking than my good self and have good reason for their decisions. ( surely its inconceivable that central gov. is as inept and amateurish as the local gov. we seem to perpetually have)

    • it is isn’t it Marva? Any thing else you’d like to call me? in English of course, let everyone know that you are just as nasty a person as you think I am you do not know me at all and until you do which will be never get lost and go and sit back round your cauldron

      • Rwyf i ddim yn dewis marwolaeth ar bobol- which translates as”I don’t wish death on people” who don’t agree with me, Ms Peeling, but you seem to. I advise you to remember that you are writing in a public forum.

  6. Isn’t the elephant in the room the fact that apparently there is an underground river on that site rendering development pretty impossible. TDC will know this, and I presume the current owner would have explored this as well with surveys. Any planning permission would then be very questionable? Isn’t this the way to question it all.

    • Has nothing to do with planning permission, you can apply for pretty much what you want, get it through the beaurocracy and you’ll get permission. The issue instead is coming up with an engineering solution to any issues ( in this instance a suggested underground river) which satisfies the building regs. Anything can be done just a matter of how much it costs and as to wether or not its economically viable for a given location/scheme.

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