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Tree protesters are left puzzled
NATIONAL park bosses have been accused of hiding behind Freedom of Information (FOI) rules to thwart a protest against the felling of an iconic tree.
Campaigners trying to save the 110-year-old monkey puzzle at Brockhole claim the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) is using Section 38 of the FOI Act to prevent them finding out when the tree will be chopped down.
Leading campaigner Marianne Birkby wrote to the authority asking officials to reveal the date the tree would be felled so she could stage ‘a peaceful protest’.
However, in his reply Brockhole development manager Adam Thomas told Mrs Birkby: “Section 38 states that an exemption is permissable in the event that disclosure is likely to endanger the mental or physical health of an individual. Due to the nature of the operation we believe that this would be the case for public, staff and contractors.
“Having considered the public interest, the authority’s decision is, therefore, to withhold the information.”
Mrs Birkby said she wanted to know the felling date so she and other campaigners could go along and ‘hold hands around the tree’.
“I would like to know what the national park authority is planning to do that would make that dangerous,” she said.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron described LDNPA’s response as ‘a bit odd and a bit heavy-handed’. “Clearly the campaigners are planning a peaceful demonstration and the authority should respect their right.”
LDNPA says the Brockhole tree was not part of the original Thomas Mawson garden design and needed felling to ‘improve the views and vistas of the listed garden’.
But the plan is opposed by leading horticultural experts, including two former Brockhole head gardeners and Nick Johnson, the conservation manager at Kew Gardens.
Mrs Birkby has also complained that the LDNPA has ‘stifled debate’ by cancelling its monthly meeting yesterday at which she and other campaigners were planning to speak.
An authority spokesman said: “The meeting was cancelled because there was not enough business to warrant a meeting. There is no proposal to fell the monkey puzzle tree before November and the campaigners will be able to address the authority’s October meeting.”