Six weeks ago we brought you the story of the fight to save a 150-year-old oak tree outside a school in Rochford. Every night, campaigners were sleeping in, and under, the tree. This had prevented Bloor Homes from felling it to create an access road for their planned 662-house development.
Since then, they have continued sleeping there, even during the recent snowy cold snap.
Last Friday Bloor Homes obtained a High Court injunction to stop campaigners from ‘inhabiting’ the tree.
Bloor had served extraordinary amounts of legal paperwork on the campaigners, who faced the risk of paying court costs up to £90,000. The campaigners made the painful decision not to contest the case due to potential costs. This meant they would be unable to speak in court.
At the trial, the judge recognised the group’s right to peaceful assembly at the tree. However, he ruled in Bloor’s favour, granting an injunction against campaigners, three of whom have signed undertakings not to obstruct Bloor’s workers.
The removal is scheduled for February, and the judge commented that supporters have until then to persuade Bloor to design an alternative road layout avoiding the tree.
Many locals feel there is an injustice here. To fight the case in court would have cost £90,000: unaffordable for ordinary people but perhaps not for Bloor Homes, the UK’s largest private builder.
The fight continues
Now, campaigner Leanne Dalby has written to Essex and Rochford councils with a request that they consider the safety of the junction layout and ask Bloor to redesign it. Residents feel the builder’s current proposal is unsafe for pedestrians and road users.
Local MP Mark Francois wrote to Bloor on 9 November asking them to replan the estate entry to save the tree and improve road safety. Six weeks later he had not even received a response. Francois says he agrees with his constituents’ view of Bloor Homes as ‘arrogant’.
But supporters are not giving up. They will continue sleeping in the tree throughout the festive Christmas season!
EAB will keep its readers informed of developments in 2023.