5,000 back campaign to save oak trees which could be felled for housing
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
A petition to save centuries-old oak trees that are set to be axed as part of a new housing development in Thurston has gathered the support of more than 5,000 signatures.
Persimmon Homes has permission to axe several oak trees in Ixworth Road, Thurston, to make way for a new footpath and cycleway to link its College Park development and the rest of the village.
But the move has proved controversial - with protestors from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and concerned residents blocking contractors from starting work on the trees.
Persimmon officials say they remain “open-minded” about other exploring options for the path that could keep the trees.
The developer was granted permission to build 250 homes on land west of Ixworth Road, as well as approval to axe oak trees - some believed to be more than 300 years old - that line the road to make way for the path.
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But, just as contractors were preparing to fell the trees, protestors began shielding them - with some campaigners even perching themselves in the branches.
The activists do not object to the plans to build the pathway but believe the trees do not need to be removed, arguing doing so would have a detrimental impact on the environment and wildlife.
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The protest prompted Mid Suffolk District Council, who approved the scheme, into a rethink over the plans, with a spokesman saying the authority will “continue to work with our partners to find a solution which could allow for trees to be retained”.
However, Persimmon wrote to Thurston residents at the end of May signalling their intention to resume work on the project, arguing the trees need to be removed due to safety and visibility concerns.
Undeterred, the protestors returned to the trees on June 1.
A petition urging both the developer and Mid Suffolk to reconsider the plans launched by campaigner Jen Tooke-Marchant has gathered momentum - with nearly 5,700 people signing so far.
Mrs Tooke-Marchant, who previosuly climbed one of the trees, said: “I wanted to make it clear to Mid Suffolk, Suffolk Highways and Persimmon that it isn’t just a handful of environmental activists who think this is wrong - it is the overwhelming majority of the local residents.”
A spokesman for Persimmon said: “We are pleased with the constructive discussions that have taken place and remain open-minded about all options for the footpath.
“We will continue to work with all parties to seek a mutually acceptable solution.”