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Extinction Rebellion tree-climbing protest forces council into rethink over path

PUBLISHED: 14:43 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:43 12 March 2020

Members of Extinction Rebellion next to an oak tree they are trying to save from being ripped down by Persimmon Homes Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Members of Extinction Rebellion next to an oak tree they are trying to save from being ripped down by Persimmon Homes Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

A protest by Extinction Rebellion (XR) that saw environmental activists climb in oak trees to protect them from being axed has succeeded - after authorities said the plans may be revised.

Persimmon Homes have planning permission to axe the trees to make way for the path Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPersimmon Homes have planning permission to axe the trees to make way for the path Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Demonstrators from the environmental group began climbing into the centuries-old trees in Ixworth Road in Thurston on Sunday to prevent them from being felled to make way for a new path.

Persimmon Homes have permission to construct a cycleway along the road connecting the village with their new development, though several trees would have to be sacrificed.

But Mid Suffolk District Council have now said they will 'explore other options' that could ensure the trees will not be removed to build the pathway.

Wendy Turner, Green Party Mid Suffolk councillor for Thurston, said she welcomed the trees' stay of execution.

Green Party councillors Wendy Turner and John Matthissen with one fo the trees that has already been partially cut Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNGreen Party councillors Wendy Turner and John Matthissen with one fo the trees that has already been partially cut Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

She said: 'It is a complicated situation but this is a positive step in the right direction.
'We are hopeful that a solution can be found. We need to hold onto as many veteran trees we can.'

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XR activists began placing banners and signs on trees along Ixworth Road on Sunday as Persimmon prepared to commence work on the proposed path, with a petition opposing the scheme attracting more than a thousand signatures.

A number of protestors then perched themselves in the trees the next day to block the developers' progress, arguing the path could be built without destroying wildlife.

Wendy Turner and John Matthissen hope a resolution can be found soon Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNWendy Turner and John Matthissen hope a resolution can be found soon Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Contractors have already axed several smaller trees close to the oaks.

In response to the protest, council bosses have now said they will seek a potential solution to the debate.

A spokesman for Mid Suffolk District Council said: 'We recognise the community's concerns about these works regrettably affecting some of the oak trees in the locality and have met with the developers and Suffolk County Council to explore all other options.

'Our planning team will continue to work with our partners to find a solution which could allow for trees to be retained, whilst also ensuring that the safety of footpath and cycleway users is not compromised.'

Despite the news, XR protestors have committed to guarding the trees until they are satisfied they will not be axed.

Jen Tooke-Marchant, who has spent time in the trees, said: 'We won't leave without an absolute guarantee that all the trees are definitely safe and local residents get a say in what happens.'

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