Wednesday 21 February 2024
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Campaigners to chain themselves to trees to stop them being cut down

Campaigners say they are prepared to chain themselves to trees in order to stop the felling of four sycamore trees in Newark.

Councillors decided last week to plough ahead with plans to build a car park on green space which is currently home to the trees – saying it would cost the taxpayer over £600,000 to save them.

Campaigners were left “devastated” by the decision – but said that they intend to “keep fighting no matter what”.

It comes after comments made in the council chamber provoked controversy after someone off-camera can be heard on the video recording of the meeting, asking a colleague if a chainsaw is being readied.

Donna Bowyer of Extinction Rebellion Newark and Sherwood said: “There is now a rota in place, people are there at all sorts of times.

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“There’s several people who live around the site who have eyeballs on the site.

“If it comes to it, there will be individuals prepared to stay with the trees until the very end.

“We are on the run up to COP26 which is absolutely pivotal for the world.

“Cutting down mature trees is the very last thing that anybody should be doing, especially people who are responsible like councils.

“The councils need calling out for it, it’s disgraceful and unforgivable.”

Jenni Harding of Protect Newark’s Green Spaces said: “We are going to keep fighting no matter what.

“We have a monitoring group working shifts and we have got people down there 12 hours a day.

“We have people willing to chain themselves to trees, they are prepared to be arrested. We have warned the council.

“They are banging on about plane trees all around Newark but you’re lucky if they are five foot high. They grow very slowly.

“The council is stuck in this contract and they don’t want to fight it.”

The council entered a legally binding agreement with Datch Properties Limited (DPL) in 2019 which owns the land the extension would be built on.

The agreement commits the council to building the car park and to pay DPL £30,000 per year in rent for 25 years, after an initial two-year, rent-free period.

Jenni added that the group have started a new petition against the plans which has gained over 900 signatures.

Deputy Leader of the Council Keith Girling (Con) said: “This is not a situation wanted to get into, but we’re in a legally binding contract now.

“The cost of getting out of that contract is far too much.

“As a council, we’ve got to do what we think is right, yes there were mistakes made and we aren’t trying to deny that.

“We will move on from them and make sure they don’t happen again.

“I can’t justify not chopping those trees down to people in the outskirts. It is easy to sit on a pedestal but we have to consider the whole of the district.

“I got officers to look at the cost of moving the trees and it is very expensive and wouldn’t necessarily be successful.”

He said they are planting 16 trees “as mitigation” for the four which will be felled and added that the council has started purchasing its first electric vehicles.

He said the council has planted 5,997 trees in Newark and Sherwood.

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