Residents have been left distraught following the council’s decision to approve the felling of a tree outside a Berkhamsted pub.
The collaborative owners of the Crystal Palace, Punch Pubs and Co and Big Smoke, previously applied to cut down the mature poplar tree in the pub’s grounds on Station Road. Objections at the time meant that the application was withdrawn in April 2022, and a pollarding application was made and agreed to instead.
At the end of last year, a second application to fell the tree was made.
On December 19, Berkhamsted Town Council (BTC) considered complaints made by The Chiltern Society and more than 20 residents and refused to back the plans.
The committee stated: “[We have] rejected the proposal for felling of this large mature tree and requested that a Tree Preservation Order be granted on grounds of amenity, wellbeing of community, air quality and biodiversity.”
Any celebrations were cut short in the new year when Dacorum Borough Council (DBC) superseded the wishes of BTC and approved the application to fell the tree.
In the DBC report, it stated: “It is acknowledged that this is a large, mature tree which is visible for some distance, has amenity value and adds to the character of the Berkhamsted conservation area, however it is located in very close proximity to several buildings including residential properties and the public house. The tree has several cavities and a pronounced lean such that the Local Planning Authority has significant concerns in relation to its safety, stability and longevity.
“It is not considered justified to serve a Tree Preservation Order and as such no objection is raised to the proposed felling of the poplar. The tree has clearly outgrown its location, is in poor health and is resulting in damage to surrounding properties all of which will be exacerbated over time.”
The decision was met with an outpour of rage and disappointment from Berkhamsted residents. A petition against the felling is currently approaching 200 signatures, and Maggie Procopi of the Berkhamsted Environmental Concern group is encouraging others to join the fight.
She said: “Everyone that campaigned for the pub not to be developed into flats was absolutely delighted when Punch Pubs and Big Smoke Brew announced their collaboration and I think we all really appreciate the huge investment they have made at The Crystal Palace. So far it seems to be doing really well, especially given the challenging times the hospitality industry have recently had to contend with.
“But I would urge them not to remove the tree and instead undertake a regular annual programme of maintenance. To have a healthy, well-managed tree within a town pub is quite an asset and would only add to the attractiveness of the pub as a destination. Both local residents and the pub itself would benefit from this so it would be a real win-win.”
One long-term resident of Station Road wrote to Punch Pubs and Co to convey her “extreme disappointment”.
She said: “I’m astounded in this age of climate and environmental awareness [that] this is a course of action you wish to pursue. Where are your company values?
“I am not sure you have understood the strength of feeling amongst the local community about this. If you think this will blow over, think again. As a community we’ve come together before and taken action. This time we’ll vote with our wallets.”
Another resident said: “It was with huge relief that I saw The Crystal Palace being refurbished by Punch Tavern and subsequently emerging as one of Berkhamsted’s most iconic pubs, nestled between the canal and the railway line, under the shade of a beautiful tree loved by the community and featured in many historic photographs.
“However, it appears that the tree is not as appreciated by Punch Pubs, 150 miles distant, who wish to fell the tree which shields the clientele from train noise and improves air quality for all.
“Pollard the tree, don’t fell it! Keep the respect and goodwill of the community and help save the planet.”
A spokesperson for DBC told MyLocalNews: “We sympathise with the concerns of local residents. It is accepted that the tree is visible for some distance and adds to the character of the Berkhamsted conservation area. However, its poor siting and the existence of several cavities, and a pronounced lean means that we have significant concerns in relation to its safety, stability and longevity. Given the professional advice of the Council’s Trees and Woodlands Officer, we concluded, with regret, that no objection could be raised to the felling of this mature Poplar tree as the qualities of the tree did not warrant a Tree Preservation Order.
“There is no third-party right of appeal against this decision. Interested parties can challenge the decision taken by the Council by way of a Judicial Review claim to the Courts. This challenge must be made within six weeks of the date of the Council’s decision.”
You can sign the petition against the felling here: petitions.sumofus.org/petitions/stop-the-felling-of-the-crystal-palace-poplar-tree
Punch Pubs and Co have been contacted for comment.