Protestor spends two days defending tree after four are cut down as part of South Shields development
The poplar tree is the only one of a group of five left, after the others were removed as part of the Holborn Estate development off Commercial Road.
Keepmoat was appointed as developer to oversee the borough council’s masterplan to transform disused docks and brownfield land into a living, working and entertainment quarter in 2020.
South Tyneside Tree Action Group chairman Rachael Milne said there had been 33 trees listed for removal as part of the planing application: "Unfortunately, we lost that battle and the plans were approved to fell the trees – but there were five trees outside the planning zone as we understood it.”
Rachael went straight to the site when she heard the trees were being felled on Tuesday, January 25: “By the time I got there, there was only one tree left,” she said.
"I stood under the tree all day – on and off there were about 25 people who stood with me - and I came back at eight o’clock in the morning.”
Rachael does not believe there was any justification for removing the trees: “They are pollarded poplars – they are 100 years old,” she said.
"I am horrified to look at everything that has been taken from here.”
But a South Tyneside Council spokesperson said the area where the trees had been standing was part of the planning permission area and the scheme would eventually result in the planting of more trees than had been removed: “Phase one of the residential development, which gained planning approval last year, will necessitate the removal of 33 trees, to be replaced with 45 trees alongside shrub, herbaceous, confer, fern and grassland. There will be a biodiversity net gain across the overall development.
“It must be noted that this former industrial site has been largely derelict for almost 20 years. The groundwork strategy will not only decontaminate the land and bring it back into use as an attractive riverside development, but will mitigate against existing flood risk that is preventing development.
“Environmental best practice will be embedded into the project’s engineering processes and construction activity – such as minimising materials taken off site, therefore reducing vehicular movements and carbon emissions.
“We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and the wider riverside regeneration, such as the Trinity South housing development and the award-winning Harton Quays Park, has involved the planting of more than 150 new trees since 2012.”
A spokesperson for Keepmoat Homes said the decision had been taken to spare the remaining tree: "We are working closely with the authorities to ensure all works undertaken at the development are in accordance with the approved plans, including the removal of a number of trees.
"There is a tree within the site boundary that was identified to be removed due to it being in a state of decline, however we would like to work with the local community and are now looking to retain that tree.
"We thank the local community for their continued patience and understanding while we work alongside them on this development."