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Radstock's historic oak tree could move to school site

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: October 19, 2012

  • LOOKING BACK: Wells Hill, Radstock, in 1905

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Writhlington School is being considered as a potential new home for Radstock's town centre oak tree.

The tree, which has to be moved from the bottom of Wells Hill to enable changes for a £1.2 million road layout scheme to go ahead, was initially due to be dug up and transported to the Miners' Memorial Garden on Waterloo Road but because of major underground services may now be relocated to the school grounds.

Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council Paul Crossley was quizzed about what is happening to the oak tree by councillor Eleanor Jackson (Lab, Radstock) at last week's cabinet meeting.

Dr Jackson questioned the choice of location and why there had been no consultation about moving the tree to the school.

She said: "Why are they proposing to move the Jubilee Oak tree to the grounds of Writhlington School when there has been no consultation with Radstock Town Council, whose predecessor body Radstock Urban District Council planted it, or with this ward councillor about this strange choice of off-centre location?

"It has been central to Radstock's history since 1897 or perhaps 1905, and should remain so, as there is no operable planning permission for the development of the railway lands or the destruction of the subway."

Mr Crossley said councillor Simon Allen (Lib Dem, Radstock) had suggested the location because of the problems with the original suggestion after consulting with the family of Colin Latcham, a teenager who died in a road accident close to the tree 15 years ago.

Since the plans to move the tree were first mooted the family has been campaigning for the tree's survival.

He said the school has the sufficient space and would be able to help re-establish the tree in the hope it will survive, adding that cuttings taken from the tree being grown at both Writhlington and Norton Radstock schools were doing well.

Dr Jackson also asked why the tree was being moved when nothing has yet been done to change to road system, and reminded Mr Crossley that he had made a public undertaking that if there were no houses there would be no road and said that as there is no agreement on the houses, then the removal of the tree was "premature".

Mr Crossley acknowledged that an application for reserved matters that still need to be decided had yet to be entered but said the outline planning permission for more than 200 homes on the former railway land was still "live".

He said: "The substantive planning application has been approved. The new one is for minor variations.

"Trees can only be moved at certain times of the year, so this is the right time to consider moving it, in addition to which there was an assurance that it would be looked after on its new site."

More pictures have emerged of the tree that seem to show it has been in its town centre location for more than 100 years.

The tree has been the subject of debate with disputes over when it is believed to have been planted.

The latest pictures of the tree which have come from Christopher Hadley's book Radstock Coal and Steam: History v. 1: Somerset and Dorset at Radstock and Writhlington.

The book, which was published in 1991, contains two post cards, one showing a knife grinder playing his trade next to the tree at the bottom of Wells Hill and another that was printed by Purnells and posted to a Miss Pook, of Newbridge Road, Bath, on February 6, 1905.

Another picture in the book, which is dated September 1907, shows the tree in the foreground of the image. The date on the picture is thought to be accurate because it also shows a Milnes-Daimler omnibus, one of several bought by Bath Tramways in 1905.

The following year the company put on a service between Bath and Midsomer Norton which took 55 minutes to travel from Odd Down – provided there were no problems with the notoriously unreliable vehicles.

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