Protesters occupy 600-year-old oak to stop it being cut down for £250m road

·3 min read
The protesters have moved into the branches to stop the tree from being removed. (SWNS)
The protesters have moved into the branches to stop the tree from being removed. (SWNS)

Protesters have climbed the branches of a 600-year-old oak in Somerset to prevent it from being cut down to build a dual carriageway.

The group have camped out next to the tree with some spending long times sitting in its branches preventing its removal.

The tree now stands alone after the rest of the are was cleared for the construction of the road.

The work started in September 2021 on a £250m scheme to dual the A303 between the Podimore and Sparkford roundabouts in Somerset.

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Protesters have camped out in the branches of the tree. (SWNS)
Protesters have camped out in the branches of the tree. (SWNS)

As part of the approved scheme put forward by National Highways an elderly oak tree near the Sparkford roundabout will be cut down.

It will make room for a new slip road connecting the new dual carriageway to the nearby Hazlegrove Prep School.

But protestors want National Highways to move the slip road.

One of the leading protesters has posted numerous updates to his Twitter feed since the protest began.

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The ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset. The rest of the area has been cleared for the construction of the road. (SWNS)
The ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset. The rest of the area has been cleared for the construction of the road. (SWNS)

The user Simon Be said: ''This tree's stood watch over this land for 600 years.

"National Highways has deliberately misrepresented its age and size in order to avoid its legal obligations.

"Those here are all willing to get arrested by resisting non-violently."

The protest has attracted the support of Extinction Rebellion and presenter Chris Packham.

Protesters have set up camp around the ancient oak. (SWNS)
Protesters have set up camp around the ancient oak. (SWNS)

Packham tweeted: ''This is a magnificent tree. It’s beautiful. It’s important, precious, a treasure.

"It needs to be cherished. Please National Highways, rethink this. It will never be replaced."

The protestors made an appeal to the High Court to secure the tree's future but so far it has proved unsuccessful.

One had to be taken to hospital by paramedics after suffering a wasp sting and going into anaphylactic shock.

National Highways stated that their own assessment of the oak had estimated it to be "around 400-450 years old", and that it was not subject to any form of protection order.

The protesters are preventing the construction of the £250m road. (SWNS)
The protesters are preventing the construction of the £250m road. (SWNS)

Moving the slip road was considered during the planning process, but officers this would have resulted in the scheme being "severely delayed" and attempts to move the tree were not viable.

The agency said it was committed to planting new trees to prevent biodiversity being lost from the A303 scheme, and that removing the tree was always "a last resort".

A spokesman said: "We respect the right to protest and will work with police and all relevant authorities, and those protesting, to ensure everyone is safe.

"We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and are one of the largest tree planting organisations in the UK, with plans to plant an extra three million trees by 2030.

"We only cut back or fell trees where it is essential to keep people safe, protect the environment or where it is necessary to allow us to improve journeys."

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