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Campaigners win permission for judicial review over council decision to relocate 500-year-old tree for housing scheme

Actor Dame Judy Dench has given her support to a legal campaign to prevent the London Borough of Tower Hamlets from relocating an ancient tree.

Campaigners from the East End Preservation Society have gained permission for a judicial review of Tower Hamlets’s decision to allow housebuilder Crest Nicholson to redevelop the former London Chest Hospital, which involves the relocation of a mulberry tree put at between 400 and 500 years old.

The group said it would need to raise £10,000 to make a full High Court challenge.

It is to offer rooted cuttings of Shakespeare’s Mulberry Tree to everyone who contributes £100 or more to its legal fund.

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Campaigners argue that under planning law, ‘wholly exceptional reasons’ are required for any action concerning a tree rated as ‘veteran’.

“Yet Tower Hamlets Council gave permission for the tree to be dug up – which will almost certainly kill it – for the sake of a bog-standard block of luxury flats,” the group said.

They fear the tree would not survive relocation and campaigners have also objected to other plans to fell trees nearby.

In remarks made to the Daily Mail, Dame Judi said: “The thought of the 500-year-old Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree being dug up to build a block of flats fills me with horror. 

“This pandemic has taught us that we should respect nature not destroy it.”

Tower Hamlets has been approached for comment.

Mark Smulian

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