Give us some answers, say Save Ashley Down Oak folk
Environmentalists and residents have written to Councillor Afzal Shah, the cabinet member for ecology to outline their demands in respect of the Ashley Down Oak tree.
Save The Ashley Down Oak (STADO) campaigners began to occupy the 100+-year-old holm oak tree on the corner of Ashley Down Road and Stoney Lane in early February and have continued to do while the tree is under threat of being felled.
Members believe Bristol City Council’s decision to axe the tree was made on the request of Zurich, the insurance company of the neighbouring property. STADO does not agree that the Ashley Down Oak has been proven to be the major cause of reported subsidence in the property.
Following a meeting with Councillor Shah, campaigners Gaby Solly and Isobel Stuart Clark (with the support of STADO) have written to him to request that BCC release any specialist arboricultural and/or structural reports relating to the Ashley Down Oak. They have also asked for a meeting between campaigners and residents, BCC and Zurich Insurance and, most urgently, an immediate moratorium on felling of the tree.
In the letter Gaby Solly and Isobel Stuart Clark state: “We witness busy Ashley Down Road filling with traffic from 7am, and it remains highly polluted for the rest of the day, both in regards to its air quality and its noise levels. It is disingenuous for the council to suggest that tree planting schemes, such as the one at Sefton Park school - comprising small fruit trees, and others grown in pots or used as hedging - would really be able to replicate the functions that this mature oak currently performs; functions which support the mental and physical well-being of so many who live in its environs.
"You might be aware that the Bristol Tree Forum carbon calculator shows that about 100 six year-old saplings would need to be planted to create carbon-neutral equivalence by 2030, and they would need to be trees that could grow to a similar size to the Ashley Down Oak.”
The oak is appreciated by residents nearby. One Down View resident said: “This tree is important to me as it shelters my home from the street noise and pollution, it is beautiful and huge and can be seen from far and wide. With it gone there would be something magnificent and historic missing from my skyline.”
Another Down View resident said: “This garden is the main playground for us - it is where the children play, this space with the big tree makes a big difference to us."
Gaby Solly said: "These graceful, green giants are our city’s lungs, bringing peaceful respite from the dirt, noise and fumes of our concrete jungle. It is an absolute nonsense to be cutting down mature, urban trees without due process, particularly in this unparalleled time of ecological and climate emergency."
A petition of nearly 2000 signatures started by the Bishopston & Ashley Down Green Party demanding that BCC not fell the tree was presented to the council by Emma Edwards. Furthermore, numerous Freedom Of Information requests have also been made in pursuance of greater transparency of BCC's decision to fell the tree.
As the Voice went to print, Torin Menzies, one of those who has been occupying the tree, said Cllr Shah had expressed interest in meeting with the protesters again and discussion had been taking place with councillors including Mr Shah and Stephen Fulham, policy advisor to the Mayor. The activists say they are taking care not to spread Covid-19 while carrying out their occupation and related activities, including maintaining social distancing at all times, avoiding mass gatherings and wearing face masks when appropriate.
Bristol City Council said that an independent expert had recommended that the tree should be removed and it was now ‘sadly unavoidable’ as significant subsidence damage had been caused to a house nearby. However, the council will be planting 250 new trees at Sefton Park Primary school and 600 trees within around a mile of Ashley Down Road .