By Henry Smith and Cassie Galpin
Large crowds are gathering at Seven Dials as the council continue with plans to cut down 120 year old elm tree named ‘Elmo’.
Members of the public are continually arriving at the scene to show support for the tree which is the last surviving on the road, the last two having died of Dutch Elm disease.
Police arrived when a member of the public protested by standing in front of a digger when workers attempted to remove railings which surround the tree.
Protesters fear that pulling the rails would jeopardise the safety of two protesters camped in the tree.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion, showed her support by signing a petition yesterday and also attending the scene this morning.
Simon, 45, a representative of the ‘Save Our Tree’ campaign said that the local community and local residents were massively supportive.
Gemilla, 30, of Seven Dials said: “[that the tree] looks stunning in the summer and there are no other trees [in the area]”
Another local supporter, who would not be named, is furious that the job is being paid with taxpayers’ money and that 1,385 signatures to the council were rejected because they were not individually sent in.
The supporter went on to add “if Green councillors are not listening to Caroline Lucas, then who are they supposed to listen to?”
The protests are a reaction to proposed £1.5 million scheme to revamp a controversial roundabout at the Seven Dials junction.
Jason Kitcat, Green council leader who has faced severe criticism from local people, said in a letter to residents that “It is very sad that this tree has to go,” despite being in favour of the trees removal.
Brighton and Hove City Council Executive Director Geoff Raw issued a statement this afternoon, he said “At the moment the tree to be felled is obstructing people’s view of the junction and oncoming traffic as they cross the road and its root is damaging the footpath, causing accessibility problems.
“Felling a large elm is not a decision taken lightly; it is an absolute last resort. It’s the council’s dedication to our elms which has ensured that we have the finest collection in the country.
“We are listening to concerns and we’re happy to look at and consider alternative proposals.”
Residents are also concerned with plans to replace pelican crossings with zebra crossings citing an immediate danger to the local nursery and blind hospices.
Work on the busy junction will continue for at least another nine months with protesters looking likely to remain.
Get all the updates on Twitter: @saveourtree