MP battles council over 'nuisance' plane tree

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The Independent Online

The conservative MP Alan Duncan has gone into battle with Westminster Council over the removal of an "enormous" tree he says is blighting his London home.

The 15-metre-high plane tree stands in the back garden of the property the Minister for Development owns in Gayfere Street, central London.

Mr Duncan is keen to have the mature tree chopped down because it is interfering with plans to modernise his house with a basement extension. But the tree is protected by a special order that has been in place since 1974.

In a bid to convince Westminster Council to lift the order Mr Duncan wrote a letter to its planning officers branding the tree a "nuisance" that "has had its day." He explained: "I am applying to have the Tree Preservation Order removed so as to grant me the right to initially prune, and eventually to replace, the enormous plane tree.

"I have no immediate intention to do so, but as explained in the note cannot even begin to address the issue of modernising and underpinning the property unless and until I have this option."

But the Conservative-run council's planners have recommended that Mr Duncan's request be rejected, saying his arguments are "unjustified". They instead deemed the tree a valuable local amenity for the natural screen it provided to neighbouring houses.

Mr Duncan owns two adjoining Georgian cottages on Gayfere Street, which are separate but share the same rear garden.

He bought the terraced three-storey building for £235,000 in 1989 at the age of just 29.

Westminster Council is due to make a decision on whether the plane tree can be cut down at meeting on August 25, and a council spokesman said it could not comment until after that meeting.