School saves mighty oak

Staff and children from St Catherine's Primary School have managed to save an 850 year old oak tree that was being cut down at the former convent next door.  Pictured are some of the pupils with coun Mary Green, coun Michael Green and Tony Green.
Staff and children from St Catherine's Primary School have managed to save an 850 year old oak tree that was being cut down at the former convent next door. Pictured are some of the pupils with coun Mary Green, coun Michael Green and Tony Green.
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A cherished centuries-old oak tree is at the centre of a dispute between a Leyland primary school and local businessman.

The school – St Catherine’s RC, in Moss Lane, Farington, – stepped in immediately when it was feared the tree was about to be chopped down.

South Ribble Council sent an officer to the site, which is the former Oaklands convent.

The building was sold to a Lostock Hall-based businessman who moved in and started felling oak trees. The trees are now under a six-month council preservation order.

A battle has begun to save the ancient oak tree and others.

A tree preservation order has been slapped on the trees at Oaklands, Moss Lane, Farington.

But the businessman who acquired the site, next to St Catherine’s RC Primary School, which intervened to stop the trees being taken down, says he does not want to fell the old oak.

Anthony Abram, a Lostock Hall-based businessman, said: “The school have created their own problems. I’ve said I don’t want that tree to go. That isn’t the case. I want to keep the tree. The other ones are not significant. I think we took three down. Two are dead, the other is still up there, but it’s touch and go whether it will live or not.”

He said a special report had shown the tree was “in significant danger”. He added: “I’ve met with the council. They are going to be in touch with the school to create an exclusion zone around that tree on their side because the branches there are very, very high. If one of the branches fall, it’s history.

“If the school won’t create an exclusion zone I will have no alternative to make that tree as safe as I can. That will mean taking a large proportion down. It’s not going to be taken down in its entirety.”

Headteacher Barbara Coulton said: “It was really the shock the children and staff felt. The tree has been there for hundreds of years. By the time I got down to see what was happening some 30 per cent of the tree had been chopped down. At that point we contacted the mayor. The children found it upsetting because generations have played under that tree.”

South Ribble Council cabinet member with responsibility for neighbourhoods and street scene councillor Peter Mullineaux said: “We take incidents like these extremely seriously and as soon as we received reports of the trees being felled, an officer was sent out to the address to investigate straight away.

“He assessed the remaining trees and immediately applied for a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) to ensure that no further work could be undertaken.

“This was all done within two hours to protect the remaining trees.

“A TPO makes it an offence to fell, prune, uproot or wilfully damage the trees without permission.

“It is initially for six months, but we will be making an application to make it permanent.”