Court saves ‘tree of heaven’ from axe

Posted: 24th June 2014

Tree of heavenCampaigners fighting to save a much-admired ‘tree of heaven’, which shades a Grade II listed library within a city conservation area, are celebrating after the London Borough of Lambeth’s decision to fell it was overturned by the High Court.

The 80-year-old ailanthus altissima stands 25 metres tall behind Durning Library in Kennington Lane, south London, and provides a focal point for hundreds of people living in its shadow. However, amidst fears that it could be causing damage to the Gothic Revival library, the Council decided that it had to go.

The decision was met with outcry, a petition from angry residents and, ultimately, a judicial review challenge. In overturning the decision and directing reconsideration of the tree’s fate, the Court found that the Council’s cabinet had acted unlawfully in failing to weigh in the balance the fact that it stands within a conservation area.

The Court concluded, "The failure to take into account a material consideration, namely that the tree was within a conservation area, was fundamental to the decision. Had the members of the cabinet weighed the impact that the loss of the tree would have on the character of the conservation area as a whole, there is a real possibility that a different conclusion would have been reached."