‘Save the Cowley Chestnut Tree’

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Councillor David Henwood (Right) beside his campaign-supporters in Cowley

Are you passionate about the environment and The Cowley Chestnut Tree? Are you aware of the plans to fell this well-loved tree? Cllr David Henwood is battling the Oxford City Council to retain the tree.

Chestnut trees are now on the endangered list, and more must be done to preserve mature trees like this one that can adsorb 1 ton of carbon dioxide in their lifetime, and emit 260 lbs of oxygen a season.

Local residents are incensed public amenities have disappeared from the area in recent years, and now want to take a stand to protect this much valued chestnut tree.

This chestnut tree was originally planted by the Gibbons family that ran a bakery on the site approx 100 years ago, and this tree is the only surviving feature of ‘Old Cowley’ and should be protected by a Tree Preservation Order, for the prosperity and amenity of future generations.

Thank you to the nearly 2,000 people that have signed the petition to ‘Save The Cowley Chestnut Tree’. Along with local residents we were overwhelmed by the 200 people that visited our table at The Cowley Centre to sign the petition. Thank you.

I am however, standing by my statement that unless the person who conducted the arborists report came from planet Kryton, or another alien planet that has X-Ray vision the ‘walkthough’ assessment at ground level, while the tree was in full leaf is a ‘best guess’ on the internal condition of the tree.

The report commissioned by Oxford City Council is quite specific in its claim and states the tree has ‘clear signs of extensive internal decay (page 10), but also states ‘No tissue samples were taken nor was any internal investigation of the subject trees undertaken’ (page 6). This last statement is key to my argument and my allegation that the evidence or lack or evidence is misleading, and can only be clarified by using a tomograph and resistograph test specifically designed to measure internal tree decay.

I am told that I am in breach of the City Council’s Constitution, because my language does not demonstrate ‘respect to officers’. I respect all officers, however this decision to fell the chestnut tree is clearly flawed due to the lack of evidence. ‘No internal investigation of the trees was undertaken’.

I have offered to protect officers and the city council’s integrity by paying for an independent assessment, an assessment that would meet British Standard BS5837:2012 by using a tomograph and resistograph to prove the presence of extensive internal decay. It may indeed be the case ‘extensive decay’ is present, but it yet to be proven.

I have recently met officers to try to examine a pathway or compromise to facilitate a solution, should the tree prove to have ‘extensive internal decay’ I’ve suggested progressive pollarding or inviting local residents and descendants of the Gibbons family plant a replacement Horse Chestnut near the site of the original bakery. These compromises have been declined.

Officers also inform me that the proposed 5 mature trees that were to be planted on the grass verge in front of the new proposal have been refused permission by County Council, it is now clear the new planting scheme will not off-set the removal the current trees both in terms of visual amenity and carbon footprint. We really need to back to the drawing board on this one.

I also in the process of organising a meeting with officers and local residents at the Venue in Cowley.

The full planting plan, arboricultural reports and Oxford Mail articles are attached below. These are public documents which you are entitled to read at your own leisure.

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