Community-Suported Treesitting in Yorkshire: the way forward

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27.9.11
An old beech tree has been occupied since Tuesday 20th September, to stop it's felling, with a change-over of occupier last Saturday, whilst borough and county council battle it out in the courts over whether the tree should be felled or preserved.

Background

The local community has been protesting against the destruction of an 80+ year old Beech Tree in Irton, North Yorkshire for several years.

Irton is a village which has a strong community spirit. Residents and outsiders have come together to show their opposition to a North Yorkshire Council decision which goes against common sense.

One visitor to the village stated “ I went prepared to think it was just an ordinary tree …. But it is exceptional! It is beautiful – it adds grace to the village. Losing it would make a huge difference.”

The tree has a ‘tree preservation order’ on it, which presumably means that tree experts feel it should not be destroyed. Despite this as well as local opposition from residents, local councillors, the general public and environmental experts, - North Yorkshire County Council has decided to follow legal procedures to destroy the tree. ….

Why is the tree being destroyed?

Occupiers of a nearby house state that the tree roots are affecting, or may affect in the future:

• The boundary walls
• The drainage system
• The current owners access to the property

Why these are not valid reasons

The boundary walls
• There is no visible sign of damage to boundary walls.

“ It is not in any way affected – it is perfectly upright” says one independent observer. House owners need to provide evidence that damage has happened. This concern cannot be taken seriously.

The drainage system
• 2 expert reviews or ‘technical reports’ have apparently been conducted. Allegedly, the first report found that the damage to drains preceded the tree, and the second report found that the drains were being damaged by the tree.
o Who has commissioned these reports? No information has been provided to the public about who did these reports. Why aren’t these in the public domain?
o A local tree student has explained that any damage done to walls or drains can nowadays be dealt with by localised methods – the affected roots can be treated and there is no need to cut down an entire tree.

The current owners access to the property
• The current occupiers can move their access point, or consider using sustainable methods of transport.
o Long term residents of the village have stated that the property entrance was originally well away from the tree, and only in recent years has the gateway been altered.
o Residents have indicated that the current owners wrere previously interested in property development on the site – they submitted a planning application for the development, of several dwellings…… but were declined.

North Yorkshire County Council may have fears about the financial implications of decisions they make now, however it is unacceptable to make the fear of an individual home owner suing the council override the rights and needs of normal citizens.

The protesters

This protest is entirely peaceful, and there was a feeling of confusion amongst protesters surrounding the concept that what they are doing is a lawbreaking activity.

“We felt the tree had been condemned. We needed to stop it happening. It is disgusting.”

The protest includes a tree-sit in. 2 residents have been residing in the tree in order to save it.

“We got ladders, and stood them up the tree. An hour later, the contractors turned up. There are 60 and 70 year olds who really do not want this tree cut down. Come and have a look – there is no evidence of damage.”

Protestors in and out of the tree have been supported by a strong community, providing moral support, food, drink and warmth, as well as the obligatory wee jar.

The views

“This is really moving all the bystanders…. Their expressions are amazing…. It can’t be wrong to make a peaceful protest.”.
“There is no defence for killing this tree… I can’t find any defence.”
“ It can’t be right…. People in power making decisions….it just seems very wrong…. It is very wrong. ”

Protestors are currently being advised by the Environmental Legal Foundation.

More photos

Video