A healthy elm tree in Brighton has been spared the axe after a campaign by residents and a rethink by councillors.
The rare 150-year-old Wheatley elm in Vernon Terrace was threatened by the road layout changes taking place at the Seven Dials roundabout.
But the Brighton and Hove City Council Transport Committee voted to amend the scheme and save the elm at a meeting at Hove Town Hall yesterday (Tuesday 30 April).
The campaigners, who called themselves Save Our Tree, clapped and cheered in the council chamber and celebrated afterwards.
Millie Ferguson, who started the campaign, said: “We are very pleased that the future of the elm is secure and hopeful that by drawing attention to the huge popularity of this tree, future planning decisions will give more attention to the significant value of mature trees (especially elms) to the local community.”
Tom Druitt, the chairman of the Save Our Tree campaign who spent two days protesting up the tree, said: “I’m chuffed to bits that the tree has been saved and the many voices of the community listened to.
The committee was told that the compromise means that the pavement surrounding the elm will be narrower than national standards.
These were set to allow adequate space for wheelchairs and electric buggies.
Traffic engineers have designed a solution that narrows the road space at the entrance to Vernon Terrace where the tree stands.
This will enable the pavement to be widened around the tree and allow enough space for pedestrians to pass.
There had been fears that the tree would obscure pedestrians’ view of traffic from a new zebra crossing but the new proposal overcomes these concerns.
As a result drivers and pedestrians using the new crossing will be able to see each other far better.
Transport committee chairman Councillor Ian Davey said: “It is clear that this tree is much-loved by the local community so I am delighted that our transport team have been able to re-design this part of the scheme.
“It’s not perfect but we have found a way to incorporate the tree within a much wider pavement, with a smoother surface.
“This fully addresses the visibility concerns while improving accessibility for those with disabilities.”
A council spokesman said: “Our original intentions were laudable in that we wanted the pavement to meet the nationally recommended minimum width for wheelchairs.
“But we want to balance that with legitimate concerns about the tree.
“Hopefully we now have a compromise that everyone can support.”
Work on other parts of the Seven Dials scheme is already under way.
The said that officials would work with the community and keep them updated on the scheme and an arboriculturalist will be involved to oversee the work around the tree.
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