'I'll tie myself to it if I have to' says Northampton pensioner fighting to keep her beloved tree

Gwen Dunkley has been keeping a communal area at her block of flats as her own for some 20-odd years, but Northampton Partnership Homes wants to flatten part of it.
Gwen Dunkley has been keeping a communal area at her block of flats as her own for some 20-odd years, but Northampton Partnership Homes wants to flatten part of it.

A green-fingered former housekeeper says she is devastated that years of hard work in her garden will go to waste when her housing provider flattens part of it in a rennovation scheme.

Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH) is carrying out a series of works to the properties in Haselrig and Archangel Square, which have been largely welcomed.

Gwen fears the finished works will resemble those already carried out at neighbouring Archangel Square.

Gwen fears the finished works will resemble those already carried out at neighbouring Archangel Square.

But the organisation that looks after all the council-owned homes in the borough is also landscaping the outdoor communal areas there.

Gwen Dunkley, the former housekeeper of Northampton's judge's lodgings, has been steadily cultivating one of these communal areas - directly outside her back door - as her own for the past 20 years, growing a large evergreen tree and shrubs as well as planting flower beds and potting numerous fruits and vegetables.

Yet NPH has told her they will have to chop her beloved 15ft tree down in order to level part of the area she has treated as her own garden off.

Now, as a last-ditch protest, she says she will tie herself to the tree when the workers come.

She said: "These are all things that have been here for a number of years - it looks natural here.

"I like sitting watching the garden and the birds and hear them singing in the morning, it's lovely.

"But they are going to chop it down. My concern is where will all the birds and bees go?

"I just want to preserve things for the kids."

Gwen, who is 85, also has three of her pet dogs buried at the bottom of the garden and says children in the area enjoy coming to see the wildlife there.

She is concerned that, once work is complete, the area will look similar to the works already carried out in Archangel Square, pictured here.

But NPH - which has agreed to alllow Gwen to keep her pots - says there are issues with access to the communal area behind Gwen's home, which is necessitating the work.

Helen Town, assistant director of asset management and development at NPH said: “We are doing planned work in this area to help our tenants upkeep the communal spaces so they can be enjoyed by all. Gwen has put a lot of her own time and hard work into the outdoor area which we respect.

"Unfortunately, this outdoor area is a communal space and this means that all the tenants living here have the right to use it.

"The sheds are currently falling down which we intend to replace and there are level access issues getting into the outdoor area which we want to fix.

"Our team has been visiting Gwen to stay updated and see how we can accommodate aspects of the garden.

"We have tailored our original plan so that the communal garden keeps her pots and many of the shrubs, which Gwen can then maintain in her own planting area."