THE Royal Borough has been accused of ‘greenwashing’ after officers approved plans to axe a 170-year-old tree in Datchet.
Last March, planning officers gave the thumbs up to an application for the grand Wellingtonia tree on Riverbank, Southlea Road, to be cut down despite it having a preservation order and being in Datchet’s conservation area.
Engineers say the tree’s roots are causing cracks and fractures to a nearby, soon to be sold off, property’s rear kitchen and external left-hand flank wall.
In the report, it states the council would be ‘liable’ to a compensation claim of around £188,000 if they refused permission.
Since the plans were approved, Datchet residents and parish council have formed a campaign group called Save Datchet Tree, demanding officers U-turn on their decision and have urged Direct Line Insurance, who commissioned the application, to scrap their plans.
The group has accused the Royal Borough of ‘greenwashing’ as the council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and has urged residents to protect the natural environment – yet approved plans for the landmark tree to be axed.
Vice-chairman of Datchet Parish Council, councillor David Buckley, said: “It just does not make sense that a tree protected by every legal protection available within law and society is just pushed aside due to potential financial risk.
“Where can residents and the public go from here, if we just ignore the environmental importance of this tree and fell it when there are clear alternatives to settle this amicably where does this leave local residents who wish to enjoy the views and benefits of such a beautiful functional community asset?”
In response, a council spokesman said: “The council never wants to see trees cut down unnecessarily. Unfortunately, on this occasion, engineers have investigated and concluded that the sequoia is linked to the subsidence of a property nearby in Southlea Road.
“A full range of information, including engineering and arboricultural reports, soil and root tests, and level monitoring results, were submitted with the application.
“Alternative options have been considered by the applicant, including a root barrier and a hydration scheme, but these were discounted.”
The spokesman added the council has planted 10,000 trees in the borough since 2019 and also plans to create new woodland and tree management strategy to support trees.
However, Cllr Buckley said he and residents must be “living in a parallel universe” as they have seen mature trees being felled across the borough.
He added a petition to save the tree was refused by the Royal Borough on the grounds that a decision has already been made and cannot accept a petition “knowing they cannot support it”.
Campaigners are set to gather at the Green in Datchet on Saturday, May 22, to add messages of protest to a banner on the Green, which is funded by Datchet Parish Council.
Direct Line was contacted for comment.