Friday 23 February 2024
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Protesters ‘over-the-moon’ because trees could be saved from the axe in last-minute deal

Environmental campaigners were left elated after last-minute plans to save four trees from being felled were revealed by Newark and Sherwood District Council.

Councillor Keith Girling (Con), the council’s deputy leader, said a last-minute offer had come in from the developer who owns the site, which will now be voted on by the authority.

Despite a long campaign by local organisers and environmentalists Cllr Girling said the sycamore trees had come “very close” to being cut down by the council in favour of extending London Road Car Park in Newark.

Protesters previously insisted they would not back down and four slept under the sycamore trees overnight on November 11 to try to prevent the work.

Campaigner Jenni Harding, of Protect Newark’s Green Spaces, who has been fighting to save the trees since 2018, said: “We are over the moon, we are on cloud nine.

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“We think the councillors will vote for the new plans now. The trees are saved, we have won. The atmosphere is absolute elation.

“Our four heroes who camped out last night are still with us. We never expected this today, it is absolutely fabulous.

“Since 2018 we have kept on with this and got more and more support.

“We feel blessed today, this is the answer to all our prayers.”

Last month, councillors voted to plough ahead with an existing agreement which committed the council to build a car park extension at the site and to pay developer Datch Properties Ltd £30,000 per year in rent for 25 years, after an initial two-year, rent-free period.

The council previously insisted that it could not make a U-turn on the plans as it would cost the taxpayer £1m to exit the agreement.

Cllr Girling said in a Facebook live this afternoon: “Over the last few weeks, I have been getting a lot of representation from protesters in terms of this land.

“I have been talking to the landowner to see if there is some sort of compromise we could come up with.

“Less than an hour ago we have had another offer from Dan Derry [director of Datch Properties Ltd]. He sent me a statement saying he realised what is going on, he is all for the environment and he’s got to put his money where his mouth is.

“I really appreciate the fact that he has listened to my concerns and we have come up with a solution.

“I can’t tell you what that is yet, it has got to go through solicitors. Because the decision to do the car park was made via the full council, the offer has got to go back to full council.”

He said a full council meeting will be arranged and if new plans are approved, the trees will be saved.

Cllr Girling added: “From a personal point of view, I am in favour of it and I think Mr Derry has been very generous.

“There is still a cost to the council but from my point of view, the people have spoken and we will listen to them.

“The trees have been saved providing that the full council accept the offer.”

He said work on the site will be halted until a decision had been made.

He added: “I want to thank those people that have protested peacefully. The ones that haven’t should be ashamed of themselves. Some of the emails I have received are vile. It has been appalling, people need to look in the mirror.”

The change follows a week of tension at the site. Protesters gathered around the trees on Thursday afternoon as council workers began putting a fence around them to prepare for the work.




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