Protesters occupy school to save trees from chop

Four people holding a tree
Protesters guarded the trees at Uplands Academy for nearly nine hours [Ian Noel]

Protesters said they would fight for as long as it takes to stop trees in an East Sussex school from being cut down.

Around 10 trees are set to be removed from Uplands Academy, in Wadhurst, as part of a redesign of the entrance and car park.

The protesters surrounded trees in the school grounds on Tuesday to stop them being felled by contractors.

A spokeswoman for the school said a report found the trees were in “poor condition or unsuited to their existing locations”.

Wadhurst Parish Council said its own tree expert believes most of the trees scheduled for removal are healthy.

Their removal is part of the school’s plans to move its visitor reception from inside the grounds to a new extension at the main entrance.

A new pedestrian access route and road widening, which the school says will improve pupil safety, has also been granted planning permission.

Wadhurst residents nestled among the trees with placards
Wadhurst residents nestled among the trees with placards [Ian Noel]

The trees set to be removed are a willow, two holly trees, a group of cypress trees, an ash, a whitebeam, a small oak and a group of beech, elm and evergreen trees.

The school spokeswoman said: “These have been described in the April arboriculture report as unexceptional specimens, in poor condition and/or unsuited to their existing locations - and identifies the elm trees as already dead.

“Safeguarding the school’s children, staff and members of the community as they arrive and leave the school site is the priority, and renewed tree planting is and always has been an integral part of the plan.”

Nine-hour standoff

Ian Noel, an arboriculturist and one of the protesters, said contractors were able to cut down just one tree during the nine-hour standoff.

He said: “There are alternatives to doing this but the school came back and said no way.

"They can find a solution without cutting the trees down. We will stay here for as long as it takes."

Sussex Police confirmed officers attended, spoke with school staff and demonstrators to "ensure the safety of all involved and minimise disruption to the wider public".

The protesters said they will return to the school on Wednesday.

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