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Warning 500-year old Bethnal Green mulberry tree 'will die' if moved

PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 August 2019

Geoff Juden has warned a 500-year old mulberry tree in Bethnal Green will die if moved. Picture: Ken Mears

Geoff Juden has warned a 500-year old mulberry tree in Bethnal Green will die if moved. Picture: Ken Mears

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A garden society chairman has warned a 500-year-old mulberry tree will die if moved to make way for a housing development.

The Woodland Trust criticised planners at Tower Hamlets Council for allowing a developer to move the veteran mulberry. Picture: Bob PhilpottsThe Woodland Trust criticised planners at Tower Hamlets Council for allowing a developer to move the veteran mulberry. Picture: Bob Philpotts

East End Garden Society chairman Geoffrey Juden issued the warning days after the Woodland Trust criticised Tower Hamlets Council planners for agreeing to the veteran tree's relocation from the London Chest Hospital.

Geoffrey said: "This is a very old tree. It will suffer stress if it's moved. If you cause it a lot of stress, you could kill it.

"If you dig it up, it may fall apart because there is already a split in the middle of it."

He explained that every tree relies on a system of fungi and microbes but a new support system takes time to generate, leaving the tree vulnerable.

The London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green. Picture: Ken MearsThe London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green. Picture: Ken Mears

Geoffrey's warning follows that of tree expert Julian Forbes Laird, who said in a Garden Museum lecture in January 2018 that the relocation is unlikely to succeed.

Opponents of the move are now considering taking the relocation plan to the High Court.

Tower Hamlets Council gave the green light to developer Crest Nicholson's bid to build luxury flats on the site in Bethnal Green last September.

Besides the mulberry's planned removal, the developer is also due to fell other trees.

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Geoffrey used the example of a children's story chronicling the plight of the environment to question Tower Hamlets' commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

"In 1973 Dr Seuss produced The Lorax. Nobody heard The Lorax speak. This is why we are where we are now

"It is all well and good having a climate emergency, but in word only." Geoffrey said.

A council spokesman said there are 91 trees on the site of various species, ages and quality. A total of 27 are due to be removed, including 11 subject to a tree preservation order (TPO).

He explained the local authority worked closely with Crest Nicholson at the pre-application stage to make sure losses would be limited to trees found to be of poor quality, smaller scale and set well within the site.

A total of 21 semi-mature and more than 20 ornamental trees will be planted, including the replacement of those subject to a TPO.

He added: "The planning application for redevelopment of the London Chest Hospital includes detailed ecological and arboriculture assessments available to view on the public planning register."

A Crest Nicholson spokeswoman said: "Currently, this is a derelict site which will be brought back to active use and opened up to the community with the restoration of a listed building and the provision of 86 affordable homes, extensive tree planting, sustainable building methods and materials.

"The translocation of any tree carries a risk. We are undertaking a process which involves picking up the entire root base of the tree and replanting it in its entirety."

She added this would maximize the chance of the tree thriving in its new location. Cuttings from the mulberry will be donated to schools and communities to extend its legacy.

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