A Sycamore tree in Margate Old Town that has been the centre of a campaign to save it is being cut this morning (May 10).
The tree, which stands on an empty plot in Duke Street, is on the site of a proposed development which was given planning approval in 2018.
A notification of works was submitted last month 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.
This morning workmen entered the site and have begun taking down branches. Kent Police officers are also on site.
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.
Members from Thanet Trees have staged several protests at the site. New group Mature Trees Matter was then formed and from this the Save the Duke campaign was born.
From April 27 a ten day occupation of the site took place. Save the Duke campaigners wanted to preserve the tree and revive the community garden proposals.
During the occupation the campaigners built a stage, had live music and belly-dancing and were visited by a Kill the Bill march.
But on Bank Holiday Monday the site owners turned up and a confrontation took place leading to police arresting the owners and two protesters. All were later released without charge.
Campaigners were evicted from the site on May 6 with the felling imminent. Members at the site this morning say they have tried to halt the felling without success.
A Kent Police spokesperson said: “Police were called to Duke Street, Margate at 8.54am on Monday, 10 May 2021 following a report that a woman was protesting against the felling of a tree. A number of people were asked to leave the area.”
The group is pursuing legal action to try and halt the felling and other environmental ‘crimes’. They say Thanet has just 4 % tree canopy cover and much less in central Margate, which made the tree important for biodiversity.
They are being supported in legal action by Fight Planning Crimes, a new collective which will challenge the legalities of the felling.
The collective is represented by Paul Powlesland, an environmental lawyer who runs Lawyers for Nature.
Campaigner Dosh Archer said: “We dreamed of a garden and looked after a tree. They destroy trees and lay concrete in the name of quick buck.
“We have nothing but pity and sadness for the people who allowed such an abomination to happen and pity for those who carried it out because they are unable to grasp the scientific fact that there is a Climate Emergency and to live in such a way is to live in denial, a very uncomfortable and destructive way of being.
“Our hearts are happy. We were on the side of Mother Nature. We concentrate now on the legal fight.”
Thanet council says that whilst the decision from 2018, before a Climate Emergency was declared by councillors, will mean the loss of the tree, the authority will be working hard to ensure that many more trees are planted across the district.
Save the Duke campaigners are raising funds for the legal challenge via a crowdjustice page at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-the-duke-street-sycamore