Uttlesford councillor at the root of ‘treegate’ saga apologises

Cllr Andrew Ketteridge attempted to draw a line uner the 'Treegate' saga at a full council meeting o

Cllr Andrew Ketteridge attempted to draw a line uner the 'Treegate' saga at a full council meeting on Tuesday, November 11 - Credit: Archant

An end to a spat dubbed “Treegate” was called for on Tuesday night, after a district councillor attempted to draw a line under a long-standing dispute involving the protected tree in his back garden.

Councillor Andrew Ketteridge was last year spotted pruning the walnut tree in his garden on Landscape View – one protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) – by a member of the public, who reported the incident to Uttlesford District Council (UDC).

An enforcement officer was then sent to the site last August, and Cllr Ketteridge was subsequently issued with a caution by the UDC on September 3, 2013.

Fellow district councillor Doug Perry, whose house is also on Landscape View, also reported the incident to the then leader of UDC, Jim Ketteridge, Cllr Ketteridge’s father, saying the tree was being “cut down”.

On Tuesday Cllr Andrew Ketteridge maintained the action was in fact the pruning of a “few, low-handing, ends of branches around the bottom of the crown of the tree”.

The involvement of UDC triggered accusations of concealment and a lack of transparency on the part of the council – both of which were staunchly denied both by current leader, Cllr Howard Rolfe, and his predecessor Cllr Ketteridge.

Before an extraordinary full council meeting on Tuesday night, Cllr Andrew Ketteridge addressed his fellow council members and asked for any confidence that might have been lost in the council to be restored.

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“Councillors, my actions as a private individual have opened the door to those who would wish to question the integrity of senior officers and members of this council, due to the fact that questions have been asked which I am told it would have been a criminal offence for anyone related to this council to respond to fully and in detail,” he said.

“This is about me pruning a tree in my back garden, a very large and mature walnut tree with a tree preservation order placed on it in 2012, six months after I bought my house.”

Cllr Ketteridge described his contravention of the TPO as a “genuine oversight” and said he was given the correct punishment.

“I recognise that I shouldn’t have trimmed the tree,” he said, adding: “I apologise for doing so.”

At the last full council meeting, in October, Mount Pleasant Road resident Matt North called for an “independent enquiry into all aspects of the council’s behaviour in this case”, but his was refused by Cllr Rolfe.