Protest against environmental vandalism, Priest Lane, Shenfield

11 Jun 2024
Save the Oak Tree, Priests Lane

You can’t replace 200 years of nature

Liberal Democrat councillors led a protest at a proposal to cut down a 200 year old oak tree in Priests Lane, Shenfield as part of the development plans for the former Ursuline Playing Fields.

Cala Homes are lining up a planning application for 96 homes on the playing fields and as part of that want to cut down a magnificent oak tree next to the entrance. This tree forms part of a row of oak trees that have lined Priests Lane for nearly two centuries.

“Decimating nature in this way is not acceptable. You cannot replace 200 years of nature”, says Liberal Democrat Councillor for Shenfield David Worsfold.

“We do not accept the excuses of Cala Homes and Essex Highways for this act of environmental vandalism. The entrance is easily wide enough if designed sensitively and there are many ways of protecting tree roots during construction now so that this is not necessary”, he added.

Cllr Worsfold ran the girls football club on the Ursuline Playing Fields for many years before it was forced off when the Ursuline Order decided to sell it for development. He knows the site better than anyone.

“Cala Homes have not clearly demonstrated that they own the tree which is largely on the neighbouring property. They haven’t had the courtesy to consult with the owner before going public with their plan to cut it down.

“Losing the tree would be a major blow to our ambition to achieve at least a 20% net gain in biodiversity when major sites like this are developed.

“I have tried engaging with the developers about the need to preserve this tree but they are just not interested in working with us and the local community.”

County Councillor Barry Aspinell said developers have to do better in protecting the environment and working with local communities.

“We know we need more homes and we support that. But they must be the right homes in the right places and must be sustainable. That means they must respect and protect what we have, especially our natural environment. Cutting down well-established trees that are such an obvious feature of the area is not the way to do that.”

Cllr Worsfold added that here are some tough conversations ahead about the development proposals.

“I would have loved the playing fields to have been retained and developed as a community asset but that argument was lost when the Tory Local Development Plan was approved.

“The original proposal for 45 homes was increased during the Local Plan process to 75 and now we are faced with an application for 96. This is clearly far more than the area can cope with. The implications for the local roads are horrendous. It an over-development and needs to be scaled back.

The Liberal Democrats are pledged to work with local residents and the Priests Lane Neighbourhood Residents Association to ensure that residents’ voices are heard loud and clear during the planning process.

Save our Tree, Priests Lane
Save our Tree, Priests Lane

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