Zoologist George McGavin slams decision to chop Shoreham tree

A ZOOLOGIST has slammed the decision to cut down a 19-meter tall poplar tree as part of a massive development.

Activists “occupied” the 32 year-old poplar tree by building a treehouse in Brighton Road, Shoreham, last Saturday.

George McGavin PhD, a zoologist and TV presenter, described plans to cut it down as an “absolute disgrace”.

Activists fear it could be axed as soon as October or November after plans were approved in March for a 159-flat development at the former Shoreham Civic Center.

Activists set up a treehouse in the poplar on August 27

George, 68, said: “We need every mature tree we can summon, especially in urban areas.

“Can we not have a building plan that doesn’t incorporate existing mature trees? Holy moly, have we learned nothing? We are looking into the face of a maelstrom and they are going to still cut down this one poplar tree.

“It is an absolute disgrace. It is criminally insane. There is no doubt about it.

“This little corner they can shoehorn an extra five flats or whatever it is for more money. When are we going to learn that making money isn’t as important as people think it is.

The Argus: Darcy Harrison, spokesman for the Poplar Front groupDarcy Harrison, spokesman for the Poplar Front group

“Is it beyond the wit of man to redesign it and make it into a community space. I am absolutely furious about it.

“It may only be one tree, it doesn’t matter what it is. The fact is we cannot go on cutting down the natural world.”

The site is being developed by Hyde Housing which will be planting 20 trees in the development.

Hyde Housing initially proposed an 11-storey tower of 171 flats on the site but this was withdrawn following concerns from people about the height.

The Argus: What the development will look likeWhat the development will look like

The new scheme will be between seven and nine storeys high with 159 flats.

Asked about the developer’s plans for planting trees, George said: “If they’re saplings, they probably won’t even survive – half of them.

“Mature trees should have a right to remain, we should have to plan around what’s already there.

“It’s an abomination, this is a tree that has done good service for many years. There is also the insects and fungi. We’re heading for a sterile, dead planet if this carries on.”

Hyde Housing confirmed to The Argus it will be planting semi-mature trees that are around six meters tall.

The Argus: Entomologist and television presenter George McGavin, in hollowed out-log in Borneo.  Picture by Tim MartinEntomologist and television presenter George McGavin, in hollowed out-log in Borneo. Picture by Tim Martin

Andy Hunt, lead development manager at Hyde Group, said: “We understand the depth of feeling about the poplar tree being felled.

“Our proposed scheme will allow for a substantial tree planting program along the Brighton Road and Ham Road boundaries of our site, which will improve the landscape and also provide support to wildlife.

“Adur District Council, which granted the necessary planning approval, has agreed to the removal of the tree and has, throughout the design process, ensured sufficient tree planting as part of the scheme.

“Poplar trees have a typical lifespan of about 30 to 50 years and eventually have to be felled to protect local buildings. The development will provide 159 much needed social and affordable homes for local people in Shoreham.

“We’ll be planting semi-mature trees that will be at least six meters tall. They’ll be maintained by West Sussex County Council.”

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