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Dame Joan Bakewell reveals how tree caused £70k of damage to her home – but now she wants to save it from the chop

Broadcaster says the back of her house in Primrose Hill started 'falling away'

25 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Dame Joan Bakewell

ONE of the nation’s favourite broadcasters has told how she has come to love a tree that caused critical cracks in her Primrose Hill home – and now wants it to be saved from the chainsaw.

Dame Joan Bakewell has written to Camden Council urging planners to block a property management company’s request to fell the plane tree in a neighbouring garden. She said the tree had once been a threat to her own home, telling the Town Hall: “In 1990, the back of my house began to fall away: a huge crack had developed from top to bottom of the rear. Saving it involved massive underpinning of the entire building. The total cost – some £70,000 in 1991 prices – was met by my insurers. They, my architect and my builder all agreed it had been caused by the tree.”

She added: “I was warned by builders and several tree experts that to cut the entire tree down would destabilise the roots, the water table and throw the entire behaviour of the surrounding land into doubt. I was advised to have the tree heavily pruned every two years. This I have done since 1992 and we have kept the tree and its surroundings in equilibrium.”

The tree, however, is one of two that have been lined up for the chop by a property management company in Gloucester Avenue that looks after houses which date back to the 1880s. It has surveyors’ reports that say the trees are now causing damage to other properties. Subsidence experts Crawford said cracks in properties were caused by clay shrinkage and “the proximity of vegetation where there is damage indicates the shrinkage to be root induced. This is a commonly encountered problem and probably accounts for around 70 per cent of subsidence claims notified to insurers.”

Dame Joan, 84, who presented The Heart Of The Matter, said: “This is fine and flourishing, a thing of considerable beauty. Each spring it comes into pale green leaf and thereafter casts sunlit shadows on surrounding gardens. In the autumn it carpets my garden with golden leaves. One day it will begin to die naturally, but that day is not yet.”

The case comes on the heels of Camden’s move to place a tree preservation order on a towering plane tree in the garden of A-list actor couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz – nearby in Camden Town – after an application was submitted to cut it down on the grounds it was causing subsidence to a neighbouring house.

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