For years it has dominated the skyline outside one of Yorkshire’s finest buildings.
But now the days of a towering Italian black poplar that stands outside Holy Trinity church in Hull could be numbered, with Church officials keen to have it cut down.
While the 100-year-old tree is considered “stately and attractive” in the eyes of local council officers, Church officials believe it is a risk to people’s health and safety and the structure of the medieval church.
The church was seeking permission to fell the “over mature” tree at a meeting due to be held this week, arguing that its roots have not only disturbed the laid gravestones in the churchyard but also threatened to undermine the building‘s foundations.
Some years ago a limb of the tree came crashing down during a gale, crushing a car. And an expert brought in by the church has warned that there is a real possibility another could fall.
Last time the church sought consent to cut it down, councillors placed a tree preservation order on it, and planning officers are recommending the latest application should be refused and the tree crowned instead, giving it an extra 20-year lease of life.
Church officials would like to see field maples planted instead.
Vicar Neal Barnes said the city council would be liable for any accidents caused by the tree as it stands in a “closed” churchyard that is no longer used for burials.
He said: “A question has to be asked, if it is seriously in danger of causing a major accident, if the roots are in danger of undermining the west end of the church, would you preserve a tree that is not going to last much longer, another 20 years – or a 700-year old building? It will upset some people, but I think this is the least worst option.”
Churchwarden Tim Wilson said early photographs indicated the tree was at least 100 years old. He added: “Its roots are now lifting the paving up beyond the chained off area and we can’t get all the congregation’s cars into the churchyard.
“It is a lovely big tree but it is not true to form because it was pollarded some 30 to 50 years ago and is actually damaging the foundations of Hull’s civic church.”
But planners are in favour of keeping the tree and claim: “Notwithstanding previous pollarding the specimen occupies an extremely prominent position in one of the key public spaces in the city which it benefits with a stately and attractive presence.”
The council spokesman added: “The tree makes a significant positive contribution in amenity terms to the special character of this part of Hull’s Old Town Conservation Area and the setting of numerous Grade II listed buildings, the Grade II* listed Old Grammar School, and most particularly the Grade I listed Holy Trinity church, arguably the most significant building in the city.”