Fate of ancient Suburb tree hangs in the balance

The fate of an ancient oak tree hangs in the balance after it was blamed for damaging a Grade II-listed building.

�The fate of an ancient oak tree hangs in the balance after it was blamed for damaging a Grade II-listed building.

The oak is facing the axe after an environmentalist consultancy blamed its roots for cracks starting to appear in an electricity sub-station and the neighbouring historic Tea House, off Central Square.

But the move is causing uproar with the Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents Association, the Trust and councillors rallying to oppose the plans.

Objectors claim the tree in Northway is not the cause of the problem and the buildings need costly foundation work to stop any future damage.

Barnet Council refused the application to remove the tree. But an appeal has been lodged by Marishal Thompson Group, which is thought to represent the owner of the Tea House.

A planning inspector heard the arguments last week and a decision is expected later this month.

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Cllr John Marshall said: “We feel they have not made the argument. In any event, what should happen is that they should underpin the building because there are a number of other trees which could also be blamed for the cracks.”

The council was inundated with letters from residents opposed to the original plans to axe the tree.

Barnet’s original refusal said: “The loss of the tree of special amenity value is not justified as a remedy for the alleged subsidence damage on the basis of the information provided.”

The tree is part of the ancient Big Wood which sprawled across north London hundreds of years ago.

When the Suburb was first designed just more than 100 years ago, founder Henrietta Barnett took steps to try to incorporate the ancient oaks into her plans.

Tony Ghilchik, chairman of the Suburb’s Residents Association’s trees and open spaces committee, said: “You have a lot of these ancient oaks scattered across the Suburb and it was always her plan to try to preserve as many as possible.

“It makes a difference to the character of the Suburb and, it is my belief, that this tree does not need to be pulled down.”

No-one at the Marishal Thompson Group was available for comment.