Somerset XR protesters occupy 600-year-old oak tree to stop it being cut down for A303 road scheme

Extinction Rebellion protesters occupy 600-year-old oak tree to stop it being cut down for £250m A303 road-widening scheme

  • The XR protesters have been spending weeks living in the tree near A303 to try to stop it being cut down 
  •  They made an appeal to the High Court to try and top the £250m National Highways widening scheme 
  • But road authority says it’s ‘around 400-450 years old’ not 600-years-old and not eligible to be protected

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Extinction Rebellion protesters are occupying a 600-year-old oak tree to stop it from being cut down to build a £250m road.

The militant eco group has been living in the tree in a bid to prevent the A303 in Somerset from being widened as part of a £250m scheme. 

XR members are also taking turns to winch themselves up into the oak while those on the ground support them. 

One of the group also had to be taken to hospital by paramedics after suffering a wasp sting and going into anaphylactic shock. 

The work started in September 2021 to dual the A303 between the Podimore and Sparkford roundabouts, following approval by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP, and has already seen most of the area surrounding the oak flattened. 

It will make room for a new slip road connecting the new dual carriageway to the nearby Hazlegrove Prep School which the protesters want moved. 

Protesters are occupying a 600-year-old tree to prevent it from being cut down - to build a £250m road. Pictured: The oak near Queen Camel in Somerset surrounded by works

Protesters are occupying a 600-year-old tree to prevent it from being cut down – to build a £250m road. Pictured: The oak near Queen Camel in Somerset surrounded by works 

Fifi Wolf, Indra Donfranscesco, Julien Hight, Direction Action Volunteer, Dav and David MacMillan with the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset, which is being guarded by protesters.

Fifi Wolf, Indra Donfranscesco, Julien Hight, Direction Action Volunteer, Dav and David MacMillan with the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset, which is being guarded by protesters.

Direction Action Volunteer, Dev, makes his way down the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset

Direction Action Volunteer, Dev, makes his way down the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset

Campaigner and deputy mayor of Glastonbury Cllr Indra Donfranscesco said: ‘It is veteran tree. She is about four or five hundred years old. There is nothing wrong with her. She’s an oak.

‘We found about two and half weeks ago that she was going to be felled.

‘We can’t afford to lose anymore trees in a time of climate crisis. And in time where we are seeing heatwaves and the amazing thing about camping under this tree is she shields us.’ 

She also claimed that the bailiffs arrived on Monday but said XR will not move from the tree. 

Dav, a tree surgeon, who claims to go all around the world saving trees is doing a lot of the rigging so the team can get up the oak. 

He explained that they are ‘ready for possible evictions’ and added: ‘It should be protected. It’s like a little of eco system in a field. People don’t give a monkeys and we’re standing up for nature.’ 

A drone shot which shows how everything surrounding the tree has been prepared to become part of the road widening scheme while the oak is left in the middle

A drone shot which shows how everything surrounding the tree has been prepared to become part of the road widening scheme while the oak is left in the middle 

The protesters putting up a sign by the ancient oak tree near Queen Camel in Somerset

The protesters putting up a sign by the ancient oak tree near Queen Camel in Somerset

The tree which is seen towering over the flattened area while the tents are seen below it's ancient branches

The tree which is seen towering over the flattened area while the tents are seen below it’s ancient branches  

One of the main protesters has posted numerous updates to his Twitter feed since the action begin.

Simon Be said: ‘This tree’s stood watch over this land for 600 years. National Highways has deliberately misrepresented its age and size in order to avoid it’s legal obligations.

‘Those here are all willing to get arrested by resisting non-violently.’

The protest has attracted the support of Extinction Rebellion and presenter Chris Packham, who tweeted in reply to Simon: ‘This is a magnificent tree. It’s beautiful. It’s important, precious, a treasure.

‘It needs to be cherished. Please National Highways, rethink this. It will never be replaced.’

Fifi Wolf is camping in the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset and is seen in a hammock along a sign saying 'Roots Not Routes'

Fifi Wolf is camping in the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset and is seen in a hammock along a sign saying ‘Roots Not Routes’ 

The tents which the group is sleeping in is pictured currently under the tree along with a lot of their stuff which is spread by the encampment

The tents which the group is sleeping in is pictured currently under the tree along with a lot of their stuff which is spread by the encampment 

The protesters did make an appeal to the High Court to secure the tree’s future but has proved unsuccessful.

National Highways stated that their own assessment of the oak had estimated it to be ‘around 400-450 years old’, and that it was not subject to any form of protection order.

Moving the slip road was considered during the planning process, but officers this would have resulted in the scheme being ‘severely delayed’ and attempts to move the tree were not viable.

The agency – formerly known as Highways England – said it was committed to planting new trees to prevent biodiversity being lost from the A303 scheme, and that removing the tree was always ‘a last resort’.

A bulldozer is pictured on the site near the A303 between the Podimore and Sparkford roundabouts, which are being dualled as part of the scheme

A bulldozer is pictured on the site near the A303 between the Podimore and Sparkford roundabouts, which are being dualled as part of the scheme 

A solar panel is tied to the tree along with water supplies as the group plan their next move to wait out being moved

A solar panel is tied to the tree along with water supplies as the group plan their next move to wait out being moved 

Protesters have occupied a veteran oak tree in Somerset in a desperate bid to prevent it from being torn down as part of a major road-building scheme. Here they are pictured cooking in the open and sleeping

Protesters have occupied a veteran oak tree in Somerset in a desperate bid to prevent it from being torn down as part of a major road-building scheme. Here they are pictured cooking in the open and sleeping 

Protesters have set up camp around the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset

Protesters have set up camp around the ancient Oak near Queen Camel in Somerset

National Highways said it 'respects the right to protest' but argued that it needs to cut trees like this one where it's to 'necessary to allow us to improve journeys'. Pictured: The tree cordoned off by the roads authority

National Highways said it ‘respects the right to protest’ but argued that it needs to cut trees like this one where it’s to ‘necessary to allow us to improve journeys’. Pictured: The tree cordoned off by the roads authority 

A spokesman said: ‘We respect the right to protest and will work with police and all relevant authorities, and those protesting, to ensure everyone is safe.

‘We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and are one of the largest tree planting organisations in the UK, with plans to plant an extra three million trees by 2030.

‘We only cut back or fell trees where it is essential to keep people safe, protect the environment or where it is necessary to allow us to improve journeys.’

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