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Experts quash fears over axed tree

PUBLISHED: 11:36 20 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:13 03 March 2010

FEARS that a tree protected by a preservation order had been chopped down have proved false, with landscape experts satisfied that it died and was not killed.

FEARS that a tree protected by a preservation order had been chopped down have proved false, with landscape experts satisfied that it died and was not killed.

Council arboriculturists were called in to investigate after neighbours heard chain saws at work in the grounds of a controversial hostel in Trimley St Mary.

Residents later saw the copper beech tree lying on the ground. It appeared to have been felled and was in the process of being cut up.

The tree at Seven Oaks, in Church Lane, was covered by a tree preservation order, placed on it by Suffolk Coastal council in the early 1990s.

This meant that it could not be felled without permission of the council and without good reason.

The council prosecuted the owners of the property once before when a tree was cut down, but the crown court found the owners not guilty.

A council spokesman said that investigations had been held into the copper beech but had shown that it had died and simply fallen over. The chain saws were being used by a qualified tree surgeon to remove the timber.

Examinations of the tree showed that its root system had been eaten away by disease, and the fact that it was diseased had been recorded at the time the preservation order was passed.

"We always investigate where a neighbour expresses concern but on this occasion our officers are satisfied the tree died and fell," said the spokesman.

Reports from neighbours say Seven Oaks is currently being used as living accommodation for foreign itinerant workers, and conversion work is also taking place inside the building by contractors.

The imposing 28-bedroom building, which started life as a vicarage, was granted permission for use as a hostel in January 2000 when it was being used as a hostel for 50 foreign backpackers working on a year-out from their studies.

Villagers had objected to the hostel use because they were worried at so many young men – aged 18 to 30 – roaming their community.

They said the hostel was too large and was having an unsettling affect on the community and causing traffic and litter problems.

The hostel closed in February 2000 and the building has stood mostly empty since then. It hit the headlines again last autumn when a couple renting a few rooms as a flat claimed to see ghosts and fled from the property.

For many years it had been a nursing home, although this was not without controversy when a large conservatory was built without permission.

Eighteen months ago, owner Larry Graham applied to turn it back into a nursing home for 22 residents, but the application was deferred and never decided.

Mr Graham was not available for comment.

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