A campaign to prevent a landmark tree in Bedlington from being cut down is receiving strong support.
The mature weeping willow, thought to be more than 100 years old, is set to be felled as part of the construction of a new Lidl supermarket.
The store will be opened later this year and many residents are welcoming it due to its economic opportunities.
The decision to cut down the tree, however, has hit a nerve with locals, who believe it should be preserved. They are concerned it may happen soon after fencing was erected at the site on Friday.
When the application was determined, county council planning officers agreed with the company’s view that it was not possible to retain it as part of the overall development of the site.
After seeing a post about it on the Bygone Bedlington Facebook page, Nickaila Arnold has posted an online petition on the Change.org website.
It has received more than 2,300 signatures so far.
She said: “This beautiful and quite majestic tree is a local landmark that has stood in this spot for longer than any of the buildings close by.
“The fact that it is being cut down for the sake of half a dozen parking spaces – on a site where there is already plenty of parking nearby – is simply heart-breaking. We hope someone at Lidl will listen to us and give this living icon a reprieve.
“We didn’t expect the campaign to get this much support – to get close to 2,500 in just a couple of weeks is quite phenomenal.
“We’re now planning to go door-to-door in an effort to speak to some of the residents in the area who don’t use the internet.
“We’re very grateful to our local MP, Ian Lavery, for his support and hopefully we will get some backing from Bedlington councillors.”
Planning officers determined in their report for the application that the social and economic benefits of the development ‘would outweigh any harm to visual amenity through the loss of the tree’.
David Murphy, head of property at Lidl UK, said the decision to remove the tree had not been taken lightly.
He said: “To leave the tree in situ wouldn’t just compromise a few parking spaces, due to the size of the canopy and the structure of the roots, it would compromise the majority of the car park.
“Additionally HGVs, which deliver our fresh produce daily, would not be able to turn in the car park.
“Due to the sentimental value that has now been expressed, we have taken cuttings of the tree so that they can be replanted, and are currently keeping them in incubation in a local nursery. We would like to invite anyone who would like to take a cutting to get in touch with email@example.com and we can arrange this.
“We would also like to reassure those who have concerns, that the tree will be removed respectfully by a fully qualified arborist.
“We also plan to plant 29 new trees in suitable spots around the site.”
Click here to view the petition.