A 100-STRONG crowd turned out to hear the fate of Irton’s controversial beech tree – which is likely to be felled next week.
An announcement was made at 4pm yesterday, stating that if anyone tries to prevent felling work from taking place, they could face a prison sentence.
The statement, read out by Barrie Mason, assistant director, North Yorkshire Highways, was met by jeers, booing and laughter from the crowd.
The tree could now be cut down any time from Monday morning onwards.
A fifth treetop protester – a 17-year-old Bridlington girl calling herself “Beech Nut” – was in the branches throughout the announcement.
She was given a round of applause by onlookers as council representatives left the scene.
Speaking on behalf of the group wishing to save the tree, Irton resident Richard Harrison said: “This is a sad day, not just in this village but in other villages with the same problems.
“We’re still hopeful that when we get to see the High Court’s reaction to all the evidence, there still may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
“There’s a glimmer of hope left until the chainsaw hits the first bough.”
Beech Nut, whose real name is thought to be Vicky, told the Evening News that she too remains hopeful and will stay in the tree “as long was possible”.
She added: “Coming up here was a spur of the moment thing. I saw how important the tree was to people - not just locally but nationwide.
“It’s a privilege to be up here and I’ll stay as long as I possibly can.”
Those gathered in Main Street gave their reactions to the announcement - some with anger and others with tears.
One woman, who did not wish to be named, confronted Barrie Mason after the announcement, saying: “The tree is not a nuisance. The law is an ass.”
Housewife Jane Cole, who had lived in Irton for 25 years and now lives in Spalding, North Lincs, had come back especially to see what happened.
She said: “It think it’s diabolical. The tree has been here all my life.
“There have been several other residents of the house and nobody has had a problem with it before.”
“Ganty”, the third protester to go up the tree, was also on the scene.
He said: “There’s still loads of support. I think this could go on for days.”
North Yorkshire County Council said the tree is likely to be felled next week.
Their statement also said: “The council recognises that some of the residents of Irton wish to see the tree remain and that they feel strongly about its removal, but North Yorkshire County Council wishes to emphasise that it really has no choice but to act lawfully in this matter.”
The legal wrangle over the tree has been going on for a number of years, after Irton residents Mr and Mrs Hazelwood applied for it to be cut down as it was said to be damaging their property.