Independent Hedge End Town councillor and local blogger Keith Day has helped to secure the future of the laburnum tree which became the centre of a village war after a local pre-school tried to have it felled to make way for a second play area.
Tempers flared when local WI Chairperson, Jill Borrows, objected to the felling as the tree –nicknamed ‘Lilly’ – had been planted by the Women’s Institute in 1964 to mark their Golden Anniversary.
Claims and counter claims had been made by both sides with no clear resolution in sight, until Eastleigh Borough Council slapped a Tree Protection Order on Lilly, bringing the whole matter to a deadlock.
A campaign to save the tree was also fully underway. A petition and a Facebook group was started while over the weekend local Ukip activists leafleted 2000 homes in the centre of Hedge End to highlight the issue.
Concerned that the matter needed to be resolved and a settlement reached that ensured both sides could find a solution, Cllr. Keith Day tabled a motion at the unusually packed out Town Council meeting:
“The Town Council notes the recent moves to establish a Tree Preservation Order protecting trees between the Village Hall and Allotment Road and urges the Village Hall Management Committee and Pre-School to pursue a course of action which does not entail the felling of a much-appreciated and mature tree.”
Eastleigh Borough Council Leader Keith House, in his role of Town Councillor, was quick to second the motion and even proposed that the Town Council mediate between the two parties to ensure a satisfactory conclusion could be found for both sides.
Louisa Lolly, the Pre-School Supervisor, spoke on the reason why she felt the tree had to be removed, stating that the tree could poison or even kill children as a result of eating the pods that fall from the tree.
Cllr Louise Bloom, quickly interjected by pointing out that whilst there was a slight danger from the tree, most things in life come with some form of danger and that a balanced and calm solution must be found to appease both sides.
Cllr. House suggested that investigations should be made by the Town Council to see if the currently unregistered land that the tree occupies could be purchased and managed by the council to ensure its sustainably and management, which was estimated to cost in the region of some £4000, ‘a small drop in the ocean’, Mr House was keen to point out.
The vote was carried 14/0 in favour of Keith Day’s motion, with Cllr Jane Welsh and Cllr Jenny Hughes, unable to participate after declaring a interest in the motion – although this did not stop Cllr Welsh from making many comments about the tree and ‘the way this had gotten out of hand’ before a reporter had to point out that she had made a declaration of interest and should not be commenting on the motion.
As it became clear that the council were not going to allow the tree cutting to form any part of the plans for the pre-school, some members of the public gallery became more vocal and it was clear that supporters of the pre-school had come in force to state their case for cutting down Lilly but it was clear that the battle was lost and that Lilly had won the day.
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