Success for Northampton protesters after housing association puts tree removal on hold

Pictured centre: Councillor Rufia Ashraf (Lab, St James) is also helping to save the tree and is attempting to arrange discussions, residents say.
Pictured centre: Councillor Rufia Ashraf (Lab, St James) is also helping to save the tree and is attempting to arrange discussions, residents say.

Passionate nature enthusiasts are calling on Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH) to save the only tree on their street, after others were demolished along with 11 council garages.

St James Residents Association has submitted a Tree Preservation Order application to the Guildhall after NPH attempted to chop down a 25 ft Pussy Willow tree in Stanley Road, St James, last week.

Residents, fighting for this tree, have observed bats in the area - and they believe they may rely on the tree as a source of food.

Residents, fighting for this tree, have observed bats in the area - and they believe they may rely on the tree as a source of food.

On Friday (April 27) tree surgeons were met by protesters, who voiced their concerns over the tree being axed, as they believe it poses no danger either to the public or to neighbouring properties.

Resident Thea Killeya, 23, has lived in St James her whole life. She said Stanley Road used to have lots of trees, including a giant horse chestnut tree and fir trees, which have been cut down over the years.

"There is a set of run-down garages a couple of doors down that are ugly enough to attract pretty ugly behaviour.

"Recently some of these garages have been demolished because of a sycamore tree behind them had damaged the walls surrounding it. That tree was cut down and, in the spirit of destruction, another tree next to it, one of the few we have left, is set to be destroyed too.

Thea (pictured with her mum Helen) is campaigning to save the tree, which she describes as 'beautiful' and 'full of life', to stay put.

Thea (pictured with her mum Helen) is campaigning to save the tree, which she describes as 'beautiful' and 'full of life', to stay put.

"It would have been [cut down] already if those who live on this street had not stepped in and refused to let it happen."

In the preservation order to Northampton Borough Council, the chair of St James Residents' Association, Graham Croucher argued the tree is an important wildlife habitat.

He said: "There are few remaining trees in the immediate vicinity and this tree is frequently inhabited by wildlife using it as they search for various food sources.

"It is also a shelter for them in all seasons and in storms, and its rough shedding bark is home to many insects, which are a natural and essential source of food for these birds."

Other points made to the Guildhall included how the tree offers residents a form of privacy and also helps to improve air quality in the busy area.

But NPH has now said it does not intend to uproot the tree just yet.

NPH director of operations Dave Pickard said: “We have been consulting with local residents and garage leaseholders since October 2017 when plans were approved to demolish 11 garages on the council-owned land off Stanley Road.

"This was due to tree damage creating structural problems identified through an independent structural survey.

"During the demolition, it was visibly clear that both trees were causing damage. We instructed a nesting survey for birds ahead of tree removal and consulted with the council’s arboricultural officer.

"We have put the removal of the second tree on hold and we are planning an event with the community soon to talk with residents about the wider redevelopment on this land”.