A tree preservation order was issued by Barnet Council in early July, but objections can still made until 17 August, and the fate of the tree will depend finally on the outcome of a planning application for 36 new homes proposed for a one-acre site next to Whitings Hill Primary School.
Local residents are being urged to prepare for a planning committee meeting that will consider the proposed housing development, and for the possibility of a separate meeting of the planning group that deals with tree preservation orders.
Under a plan prepared for the council by Capita Property and Infrastructure, the “mighty oak” would have to be cut down to make way for an access road to a new housing estate comprising 29 two- to three-storey houses and an apartment block of three or four storeys providing seven flats.
The Barnet Society has already written objecting to the felling of the oak. Robin Bishop, chair of the Society’s planning and environment committee, says the purpose of its removal seems to be solely to maximise the development potential of the site.
“Our view, on the contrary, is that it is a long-established and delightful local landmark that would add value to the proposed design.”
An application for a tree preservation order on the oak was made by Paul Ashby, a Whitings Road resident, and was approved on 6 July with a six-week period for possible objections.
Mr Ashby organised an open meeting attended by 22 local residents on 20 July to consider Capita’s plans for the site.
The scheme was opposed on the grounds that the proposed new homes “looked like expensive houses for the rich”; were out of keeping with the area; and were much closer to the pavement than other Whitings Road houses.
Residents doubted Capita’s forecast that 60 per cent of the new homes would be “affordable”, and governors at Whitings Hill Primary are concerned that the higher floors of the proposed block of flats will overlook the school and the playground.
The meeting expressed its total opposition to the destruction of the 100-year-old oak tree to make way for an access road.
Mr Ashby says that an 1865 map at Barnet Museum indicates that there were numerous big trees in Bells Hill, Chesterfield Road and Whitings Hill. “Sadly they are nearly all gone, which underlines why it is all the more important to stop Barnet Council felling the mighty Whitings oak.”
Councillor Paul Edwards has suggested local residents should prepare themselves for a forthcoming meeting of the planning committee so that they can argue their case.