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Bad news for Frome town centre’s iconic tree

ONEof the last trees in Frome’s town centre is in danger of disappearing… again.

Last summer in the Frome Times we reported that the tree was to be felled after fears that it was causing cracks on a nearby building. But the tree was saved and awarded a Tree Preservation Order after a concerted effort by concerned Frome residents last year.

Now, however, the company Pangmore has applied to fell the tree and although it has the tree preservation order, the tree could still be felled if the application is approved by Mendip District Council.

According to the planning report, “Mr Pang notified the Local Authority of his intention to have the tree felled, on account of his concern that the tree was having an unacceptably adverse impact upon the structure of his property at Iron Gates.”

Frome resident and author of ‘Britain’s Tree Story,’ Julian Hight says, “This is one of the last trees in the town centre and certainly the last tree of note in the Kingsway precinct. It is a specimen town centre tree and plays a major contribution in the character of the conservation area, and its felling would be a major loss to the aesthetic quality of the town. In fact, it is one of the town’s few iconic trees.

“In 2013, such was the public empathy with the tree that a tree preservation order was granted in the first place. Several years ago a tree opposite the pet shop was felled without warning because it was not within the conservation area and had no protection. At the same time, a mature horse chestnut tree that had provided conkers for the local children for many years in the car park beside the shop, suffered the same fate. Neither have been replaced.

“London planes – such as the one in the town centre – thrive in towns and cities, their large, shiny leaves and flaking trunks making them resistant to pollution. They absorb pollution and CO2 – the gas responsible for global warming – which will be released into the atmosphere if the tree is felled. They also take pollarding (pruning) well – so this is a possible and much less drastic option for the Frome tree.

“It is for these reasons, when added to their aesthetic beauty, that they are the most popular tree in London, accounting for around half the city’s tree population, and living happily alongside the many buildings and people there, and for that matter many towns and cities across Britain and Europe.

“The structural engineer’s 2011 report (accompanying the earlier planning application: 2013/1218), referred to hairline cracks in the plaster on the walls of the pet shop, a listed building known as ‘Irongates’. From this spurious evidence, and referring to other cases, the planning application requests to fell the tree. London tree officers took the initiative of placing monetary values on plane trees in the city in an effort to stop any more being cut down at the request of insurance companies eager to blame them for building subsidence before a proper report could be made.

“There is every chance that the cracks in the pet shop wall plaster are caused by seasonal variation and further investigation is surely required.

“The report suggested that the tree was planted in 1974, but with a girth of over three metres, that estimate is at best flawed. A plane tree at Abbey Green in Bath has a girth of six metres and that is known to have been planted c1790, around the same time as central London’s oldest trees in Berkeley Square which have similar measurements. There are eight plane trees lining Park Road in Frome that were young trees in 1910 evidenced by an archive photograph I have seen. They now measure between 1.3 and 1.6 metres in circumference, so a conservative estimate for the age of the tree at Kingsway must be close to a century old – it was probably planted around the same time as the horse chestnut tree that was also unnecessarily felled. There is no substantive evidence in the previous structural engineer’s survey, made around three years ago, that the plane tree in Kingsway is harming the adjoining buildings.

“Further to this, felling a large tree of this size could have more detrimental effects to the surrounding buildings by the effects of ‘heave’. That is the amount of water a tree absorbs and channels to drainage through its roots would has a significant effect on ground water in the vicinity. Trees are being known to alleviate the effects of flooding, absorbing 68 times the amount of water as grass.

“I object to the felling of this fine town centre tree, and implore Mendip District Council to do the same. I have written to The Woodland Trust, David Heath MP, The Ancient Tree Forum and others to support this request.”

Comments about the felling of the tree can be made before Saturday 1st March at: publicaccess.mendip.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=MZ4UOYKP2G000 or by email at: consultations@mendip.gov.uk.

 

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