Reprieve for historic tree

August 21st, 2013 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

Remember the historic chestnut tree, threatened with the axe by an insurance company? We’re delighted to report that the tree has received a stay of execution.

The tree was planted in 1927 to celebrate the piping of water to Leafield village. There was a planting ceremony with prayers, hymns and speeches. But it was threatened with destruction when RSA Insurance Group (formerly Royal and Sun Alliance) claimed that it was responsible for cracks in the wall of a nearby house, Butchers Cottage.

Leafield locals, determined to save the tree, met on the hottest day of the year (14th July) to share their concerns. Those present included children, a pregnant woman and a 92-year-old, along with most of Leafield’s parish councillors. Residents also started a petition which has gained 145 signatures so far. The show of feeling prompted the parish council to hold a formal public meeting.

Now the campaigners have received the best news they could have hoped for: RSA Insurance Group has become aware of public feeling and has also inspected the report sent to them by Dr Giles Biddle, an independent tree expert employed by the parish council. RSA has agreed a “stay of execution” for the tree while further investigation is carried out.

Residents have always argued that the date set for felling the tree (29th July) was too soon and that the decision was made without enough evidence. The surveyor working for the insurance company did not have certain facts to hand – for example, he was not aware that previous owners of Butchers Cottage had carried out underpinning, or that  an older building used to rest alongside the wall in question before being demolished because it was causing damp.

The Leafield campaigners believe that a fair, unhurried look at the evidence will show that the tree is not the cause of the problems with the property. Resident Anney Harris said: “We hope against hope that the tree may be allowed to remain.”

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