Oak saved from axe
Campaigners occupied the Ashley Down Oak in February 2021
Campaigners have won a battle to save a 120-year-old oak tree that Bristol City Council condemned as doomed just four months ago.
Mayor Marvin Rees announced in a Facebook video on May 11 that experts had found a way to maintain the tree in Ashley Down Road, which was causing subsidence to a nearby home.
The 22-metre holm oak was occupied by protesters in February who submitted a 2,000-name petition after the council issued a notice of felling.
At the time, the local authority said pruning had not stopped significant subsidence damage to a neighbouring property and that an independent expert recommended the tree’s removal, saying it was “sadly unavoidable”.
Now, though, Save The Ashley Down Oak (Stado) campaigners are celebrating after the city mayor unexpectedly announced it could be saved after all, although the group disputes the tree is the cause of the property’s structural problems and is demanding an immediate tree preservation order (TPO).
And while new 18-year-old Bishopston & Ashley Down ward Green Cllr Lily Fitzgibbon welcomed the news, she said residents and activists were “completely left out of the process”.
In the video, filmed at the scene, Mr Rees said: “We’ve been working with experts behind the scenes and a really good piece of news is that we’ve found a way of protecting that home without felling the tree. It will include pollarding and some cutting back of the tree’s canopy, so the tree can be saved and the home can be saved.”
He thanked 19-year-old conservationist Mya-Rose Craig, aka Birdgirl, for her “communications on this matter” and former Cllr Afzal Shah who was cabinet member for climate, ecology and sustainable growth before losing his seat at last week’s local elections.
The mayor added: “We also anticipate that this will be a growing challenge for us.
“Climate change will mean that trees will be drawing more moisture from the soil and it will mean more situations in which they come into conflict with local buildings
“So one of the things we are going to be doing is looking at the way we use our climate reserve to better understand and then, where we can, intervene in such situations so that we can save both trees and homes.
Stado campaigner Torin Menzies said: “While we welcome the mayor’s announcement, our work here is not yet done. We still need to ensure Bristol City Council acts appropriately and does not cause unnecessary risk or harm and that it is transparent about its current plans and its original reasoning behind the attempted felling of the Ashley Down Oak.
“While this is a big victory for both us and tree protection and environmentalist campaigns across the city, the council still needs to improve its urban tree policies – this includes granting more TPOs, standing up against private companies on behalf of local residents and doing whatever is reasonably possible before felling mature trees.”
Cllr Fitzgibbon tweeted: “Excellent to hear that local residents have been listened to. I’m sure @AshleyDownOak would like more than promises.
“Can we have confirmation that the felling contract is cancelled? While I am incredibly relieved to hear that the Ashley Down Oak will be saved, I’m concerned that residents and campaigners were completely left out of the process.
“Additionally this campaign never should have been necessary. These decisions shouldn’t be happening as an afterthought and council policies need to be updated to reflect the declaration of ecological emergency.”
Ashley ward Green Cllr Jude English said in a comment below the mayor’s video: “Without the activist campaign following the felling notice this tree would already have been felled. I think the election of 24 Green councillors has also helped Marvin and Labour understand what an ecological emergency actually means.
Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter voters!”Wetherspoons comes up with new plan for Gloucester Road site
J D WETHERSPOON has put in another application to transform the derelict site at 349 Gloucester Road.
The building has been a vacant eyesore for years, and the pub chain has been trying to take ownership of it since 2014, submitting a steady stream of planning applications.
The latest plan was validated on July 17 and is open for comments until August 26. The date for the determination deadline is Friday September 11.
Comments from local residents who object to the application include: “Gloucester Road doesn't need another pub, particularly not one which is out of step with the independent spirit of the area and which is likely to cause economic detriment to existing businesses owned and operated by local residents” and “The rear gardens of Brynland Avenue do not need any more of that level of noise. More noise from a public house and a terrace that overlooks those gardens and families is highly inappropriate.”
In support, comments from residents include: “I fully support the application to develop this derelict eyesore that has been empty for over a decade. It will also be good to have a new pub on this part of the road to replace The old Fox and The Victoria which have both closed in recent years” and “This development will convert a boarded up eyesore into a beautiful building creating jobs and attracting people to the area who can use other businesses in the locality.”
The planning application (ref:20/00968/F) can be viewed on the council’s planning application website: planningonline.bristol.gov.uk.