Campaigners have launched a legal challenge to a council decision to remove Radstock's Queen Victoria Jubilee Oak.
Members of Radstock Action Group (RAG) handed a legal letter and petition to the leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Paul Crossley, when he visited the town on Saturday to plant another oak tree – this time to mark Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.
Following last week's announcement by the local authority that work to remove the tree would be starting immediately to pave the way for a new road layout and the building of 210 homes on former railway land, RAG has sought legal advice.
As a result a letter containing ten questions was written by a local solicitor, suggesting B&NES may not be following due process.
RAG secretary Amanda Leon said the group, made up of residents opposed to the proposed road scheme and development, welcomed the planting of the new tree but hoped the council would change its plans to move the mature tree to Writhlington School.
She added: "The tree undoubtedly has very many different important roles for many different people in the town. It is also getting in the way of a road programme which people do not want. During a recent collection of signatures against the removal of the oak tree, several people suggested that even if the council is determined to pursue the new road scheme, they should leave the oak in the middle of the new roundabout they propose. We urge the council, yet again, to have a rethink – we need regeneration, not the degeneration that the new through traffic will bring."
The newly-planted oak tree will be registered with conservation charity The Woodland Trust, which is keeping a register of trees planted across the country to mark the royal milestone.
Mr Crossley (Lib Dem, Southdown) was joined by B&NES Councillor Simon Allen (Lib Dem, Radstock), Councillor Lesley Mansell, Chair of Radstock Town Council, and Radstock town councillors Elizabeth Derl-Davis and Ffylff McLaren.
Ms Mansell said: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is now. This tree will bring pleasure to residents and visitors to Radstock for many years."
B&NES responded to the legal letter from RAG on Tuesday (December 4). In a letter addressed to the solicitor, Mr Crossley explains the importance of developing the former railway land and says the local authority does have permission to remove the tree, despite the fact that live planning consent has now lapsed.
The letter says that expert advice is that the tree will die in its current location and needs to be moved somewhere where its roots can breathe.
The letter and further details of the regeneration in Radstock can be found at: www.bathnes.gov.uk/regenradstock.