The fate of three much-loved trees in The Square is in the balance after hundreds of Petersfield residents signed a petition and organised a protest rally to save them.
Campaigners even threatened to chain themselves to the maple trees to stop them being cut down with chainsaws. Now they have been invited to suggest how the trees can be saved, but if their ideas are rejected, it’s likely the felling will happen.
The work was approved by East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) but there was a stay of execution late last Friday after the strength of the protestors’ ire, and the lengths to which they might go to save the trees, became clear to council officers.
EHDC’s manager for planning policy, heritage and compliance Simon Jenkins said: “Given that this has caused a lot of concern, and there is a risk that the work might be disrupted in an unsafe way, we have decided not to go ahead this week.”
Soon after the proposal became public, a Facebook page, ‘Save the trees in The Square,’ gained 400 likes and around 500 people signed a petition asking for the felling to be stopped.
It was given to the council on Friday, and the work was postponed to the New Year.
But roots have lifted cobbles around the trees, causing a hazard, says EHDC.
Mr Jenkins added: “Some people have hurt themselves by tripping on the roots. We have to resolve this so The Square can be enjoyed safely.
“Our plan was to replace the trees with three 19ft-high field maples.”
Petersfield Town Council says it was given little warning the trees were under threat. The lack of discussion also angered campaigners.
Clearly taken aback by the furore, the district council now says it wants to hear ideas that may save the trees.
Mr Jenkins said: “We would now like to publish our plans so that residents appreciate more fully what we are trying to do and suggest other ways of solving this problem.
“We will look at all the suggestions, meanwhile no work will be done until at least the new year.” But other trees have been felled recently, complain campaigners, including ones in the Swan Street car park and next to the path from Hylton Road to Tesco.