A CAMPAIGN has been launched to save a tree that is due to be felled during the redevelopment of Townlands Hospital in Henley.
Residents are angry that the lime tree in the hospital grounds in between York Road and Clarence Road will be removed to make way for the new £8.7million “health campus”.
A banner saying “Save This Tree” has been put up twice on a fence that runs in front of the tree but on both occasions it was removed by hospital staff.
Developer Amber Solutions for Care, which is to build the new three-storey hospital, says it would be “impossible” to retain the tree and keep the existing hospital open during construction.
Patricia Campbell, of York Road, and five neighbours want to save the 100ft tree. She said: “The plans show that the lime tree on the right side of the entrance to Townlands Hospital will be cut down to facilitate a car park. This is absolutely appalling.
“The tree is fully mature and has stood at the entrance to the hospital for certainly more than 50 years.
“It is a beautiful tree in all seasons, with abundant leafage, and provides a visually attractive welcome to all who pass it on their way to the GP surgeries and the hospital.
“I understand that the tree is in good health and likely to survive for at least 40 years. This was confirmed in the report of the specialist architectural survey carried out on all trees on the site.”
Mary Spargo, of King’s Close, said: “It seems terrible to destroy the tree. We don’t have enough trees as it is.” She said that the entrance would be seem bare without the tree.
“I would do anything to try to save it,” she said.
Marilyn Sha claimed that the objections of a council forestry officer to felling the tree had been ignored.
She said: “The only way we could object was through protest but unfortunately the hospital staff took the banner down. That is the only way we can make people notice.
“This is wanton destruction and totally disregards the beauty of the neighbourhood. It is a terrible shame.”
Mike Leto, of Amber, said: “The key reason for felling the tree is a result of the restricted site and keeping the hospital ‘live’ during the construction of the new one.
“There is a new access route being built at that part of the site to cater for hospital traffic. We have looked at keeping the tree but it just proved impossible.
“I would like to reiterate we have done everything that we could to retain all trees as far as possible and we looked at all the options.”
Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, said: “I regret any loss of trees but the need to keep the services running during the development meant there was no alternative.
“Do we really want to lose the development for this reason? We need to keep this in proportion.”
Planning permission for the new hospital, as well as a 64-bed care home and 44 “key worker” homes, was granted by South Oxfordshire District Council last month. The new hospital is expected to open by the summer of 2014 but residents could still have a say on the development.
Cllr Reissmann said: “The areas that we are still able to influence include landscaping, materials, the war memorial and the place for the bus stop.
“We are still looking for a second crossing by the town hall. We believe that is necessary but it would not be part of section 106 funding. I would like the extension of residents’ parking in York Road and Clarence Road. We feel that the residents deserve dispensation from the difficulties that they will face over the next year.”
lWhat do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG1 9AD or email letters@henley standard.co.uk