A CAMPAIGN group has organised a march to protest against plans to cut down a poplar tree to make way for a 160-home development.
The group, called Poplar Front, said it is “fed up of being ignored” by developers Hyde Housing and Adur District Council about cutting the tree in Brighton Road, Shoreham.
Members “occupied” the 19-metre tall poplar in August, building a tree house and saying they would “stay as long as it takes” to save it.
Members have now organised a march to protest and fundraise this Saturday in the hope that the 32-year-old tree can exist alongside the block of flats proposed by Hyde Homes.
Darcy Harrison, spokesman for the group, said: "We are fed up of being ignored.
“We are organising this day of protest, fundraising and publicity to show Adur Council and Hyde Homes the strength of public opinion that exist in the Shoreham community against felling this tree unnecessarily.
“It would be child's play for the developer to alter the ground floor design, provide the same number of dwellings and avoid removing this perfectly healthy tree.
“Hyde Homes claim saving this tree will reduce the number of homes but this isn't credible.
"The Western wing, planned over the tree, is two storeys less than the Eastern wing, so if necessary they could build upwards.
“We are seeking a dialogue with Hyde Homes to discuss an alternative design.
"We urge them to make contact, give proper consideration to modified use of the land, and to make this a win-win for everyone.
“We really shouldn't be felling healthy mature trees when there are easy alternatives available.
“Adur's planning officers and committee members should be insisting on this principle being applied universally in order to help meet their own climate change commitments.”
Adur and Worthing Councils pledged to become carbon neutral for the emissions they control by 2030 following the climate conference COP26 last October.
Poplar Front will be starting its march from 11.30am outside the Shoreham Centre site, along St Mary's Road and onto the A259 Brighton Road to the tree for noon.
There will be music and community events between 12pm and 4.30pm.
Hyde Housing initially planned an 11-storey tower of 171 flats on the site but this was withdrawn following concerns from people about the height.
The new scheme is said to be between nine and seven storeys high with 159 flats.
The plans were approved by Adur District Council in March.
Hyde Housing previously said it understood the strength of feeling about felling the tree.
It pointed towards the fact it is planting 20 semi-mature trees in the new development.
Zoologist George McGavin described plans to cut the tree down as an "absolute disgrace".
Andy Hunt, Lead Development Manager at Hyde Group, said: “I understand the depth of feeling about the tree being felled and we’ve looked carefully at options to retain it, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible and would mean the loss of at least 12 social rented homes on the new development.
"There is a shortage of affordable homes available in the District and this would mean up to 25 people remaining in temporary, or unaffordable housing. The development will provide much needed affordable homes for up to 470 local people. The homes will be highly energy efficient with an EPC band A rating.
“Adur District Council, which granted the necessary planning approval, has agreed to the removal of the tree and has, throughout the design process, ensured sufficient tree planting forms part of the scheme.
"We’ll be planting trees along the Brighton Road and Ham Road boundaries of our site, which will improve the landscape and support wildlife.
“We’ve also sold another site, New Salts Farm between Shoreham and Lancing, to the Council. This will be restored to its natural habitat, providing a new area of accessible green space for the local community that will increase biodiversity and carbon absorption, and help the Council in its plans to become carbon neutral by 2030."
The council confirmed that Hyde Housing will be responbile for maintaining the planted trees.