A former Amber Valley council chief executive is involved in discussions with neighbours over the fate of an old oak tree.
Peter Carney owns land at Pingle Lane, Belper, where a planning application for a residential development has previously been approved. Some tidying work has since been carried out at the land.
An application for three homes on the site by the previous landowner had won permission in 1997. That permission would still be valid as long as “material start” had been made on the building works, a borough council spokesman has said.
However, to get building materials on to the plot, they would have to be taken past a large oak tree, whose ownership is disputed by some residents as well as the headteacher of nearby St Elizabeth’s Catholic Primary School.
Two surveys have been carried out on the tree to establish if it is still alive after a fire burnt a hole in the trunk.
However, after specialists came to different conclusions concerns have been raised by some residents and the school headteacher that the tree is not toppled.
Headteacher Brian Lowe said: “It’s an ancient tree that’s been surveyed by Derbyshire County Council and should not be removed.
“It has a healthy lifespan of at least 100 years.”
Residents met with Mr Lowe and Mr Carney on Wednesday, September 25, to discuss the matter and metal fencing that had been placed next to the tree was removed.
Resident Peter Hallsworth said: “That tree is exactly the same as when I was five.
“We don’t want it to be toppled.” Mr Carney, who lives nearby, applied for renewed permission to build the houses in May that year. The application was later withdrawn, but the 1997 permission was still valid.
There are currently no Tree Preservation Orders active in Pingle Lane. However, because it falls in a conservation area the council requires six weeks’ notice of any works to prune or lop trees.
Mr Carney had worked for the borough council in Amber Valley for 27 years and had been in the top role for 19 years – recently on a salary of more than £100,000 - when his post was axed in December 2012.
Mr Carney declined to comment when approached by the Belper News.