Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Cowes campaigners 'to take ownership of Chris Packham tree'

Valentines Day rally Image copyright Friends of the Umbrella Tree
Image caption Protestors gathered at the tree for a Valentines Day rally

Campaigners have been given the chance to take ownership of a 100-year-old landmark tree on the Isle of Wight.

The island's council planned to remove the weeping ash - known locally as the "Umbrella Tree" in East Cowes - claiming it was unsafe due to a fungus.

A campaign to save the tree gained support from celebrities including Chris Packham and Alan Titchmarsh.

At a meeting earlier, the Friends of the Umbrella Tree group was given time to form a "community interest company".

Once formed, that company would take over the care and ownership of the tree.

'Not out of the woods'

The group needs to raise funds to pay for a framework to support the tree, its maintenance and inspections. It also has to find a £10m insurance policy.

A petition to save the tree, which was planted by a member of Queen Victoria's staff, has gathered more than 4,000 signatures.

Independent councillor Karl Love said after the meeting: "We are not out of the woods, so to say, but it's more encouraging and positive than we could have hoped for.

"There is now a real chance of the tree living out its days and displaying its magnificent blooms," he said.

Image caption Chris Packham has spoken out in support of the weeping ash

Campaigners, who staged a protest by the tree on Thursday, said they had already raised £5m in public liability insurance cover, which should be "more than enough". However, the council has insisted the cover needed to be £10m.

Tanja Rebel, from the campaign group, said: "If we can secure insurance then things might be smoother, but if not then the island council should retain care of the tree.

"The tree has at least another 25 years. If you look at this tree, it's extremely strong - others came down in the storm. This one has withstood so many storms."

The council said it would "strictly adhere to its duty to protect the public".

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