Glee in garden as oaks are saved from the axemen

TWO magnificent trees in Hampstead Garden Suburb, which are both over 100 years old, have been saved from the chop.

Katie Davies

TWO magnificent trees in Hampstead Garden Suburb, which are both over 100 years old, have been saved from the chop.

The huge oak trees on Reynolds Close and Denman Drive South were threatened with the axe because insurance companies said they were causing subsidence.

But brave politicians have risked being sued for £40,000 in damages and vowed that the trees will stay.

At a Barnet Council meeting last Tuesday Hampstead Garden Suburb Councillor John Marshall said: "I don't see how there could be a replacement of these trees which have been here for many, many, generations.

"Both applications are rejected on the grounds of the exceptional amenity and value provided by the trees."

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Campaigners and residents including former MP Martin Bell flocked to Denman Drive on Saturday to celebrate the victory.

Dozens had written to the council objecting to the felling of the oak which is in the garden of an empty home.

The application to chop it was made on behalf of the developer by OCA Ltd, tree experts who claimed it was causing damage to the home.

But campaigner Deborah Calland said: "This is a magnificent oak tree, important to residents on the drive, in the Suburb, but also beyond."

Similarly the application on Reynolds Close was from OCA Ltd after claims of subsidence to a nearby conservatory.

Opponent to the felling Claire Calman said: "This is one of the most strongly protected conservation areas in the country, but what is the point of these protective measures if they are overturned by the applications of an insurance company?

"If this tree is removed it will be the thin end of the wedge and it is not democratic if insurance companies can have more influence than elected councillors."

In the Reynolds Close case, officers warned councillors they could face a bill of £25,000 if their decision is proved to cause damage to the home and a further £15,000 for Denman Drive.

But councillors believed new case law meant they could justify their decisions legally.

A case against Northampton Borough Council last year strengthened security for trees covered by protection orders, which apply to both trees in these cases.

The precedent places a bigger burden of proof on the felling applicant and says the axe has to be the only option in order for it to be used.

OCA Ltd has decided not to appeal against the council's verdicts.