Ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green is foiled in her bid to cut down a 250-year-old oak tree


Ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green was foiled in her attempt to cut down a 250-year-old oak tree

Ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green was foiled in her attempt to cut down a 250-year-old oak tree today by her wealthy neighbours who protested over tea and cake. 

The multi-millionaire businesswoman applied to her local council to fell the tree because its roots were causing subsidence to her £3million Oxford mansion.

But well-to-do residents in the leafy street were up in arms about the plans and staged a very middle class demo to stop the tree surgeons getting to work.

Ms Green, 59, who has lived at the property with her husband Graham Clarkson for 20 years, was CEO of Thomas Cook for two years, earning a salary of up to £687,000 a year.

Her time at the company was marred by a series of controversies including the deaths of two children aged six and seven, who were gassed by a faulty heater while on holiday in Corfu. 

She was labelled a ‘greedy, shameless woman’ over her handling of the crisis and walked away with £7.9million in bonuses.

In 2019 she had to give evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry into the demise of Thomas Cook under a £1.7 billion debt pile. 

The multi-millionaire businesswoman applied to her local council to fell the tree because its roots were causing subsidence to her £3million Oxford mansion

The multi-millionaire businesswoman applied to her local council to fell the tree because its roots were causing subsidence to her £3million Oxford mansion

But well-to-do residents in the leafy street were up in arms about the plans and staged a very middle class demo to stop the tree surgeons getting to work

But well-to-do residents in the leafy street were up in arms about the plans and staged a very middle class demo to stop the tree surgeons getting to work

But today she faced another challenge, this time in the shape of her neighbours, made up of Oxford professors and academics, who chatted amiably as they gathered outside her home, determined to stop the tree from being chopped down. 

They produced chairs and a small table, as a they sipped tea and tucked into home-made fruitcake on the pavement under the old oak tree.

The tree at the centre of the protest

The tree at the centre of the protest

Mrs Kim Antonia, a speech and language therapist, who lives opposite Ms Green, said: ‘I am furious. I’m not satisfied that this tree has to be cut down. I look out at it every day and think what a beautiful tree it is.’

Architect Ian Salisbury added: ‘We don’t want to be on unfair to her, we are objective. And this is a very peaceful protest and I suppose a chance for us to chat among friends. 

‘The police soon decided they didn’t need to be here as there’s not going to be any trouble at all. Why would we do that on our own street?

‘This is all about protecting the beauty of out neighbourhood.’

Ms Green and her husband had successfully taken Oxford City Council to court to have a tree preservation order on the old oak lifted. 

The couple said the tree in their front garden had to be removed because its roots had stretched and were growing beneath their home.

Defending the case cost the council so much that eventually they were forced to admit defeat. 

Notices went up informing motorists that the bays close to the boundary wall were being shut and word got round the old oak tree was coming down. 

What nobody had accounted for was the local strength of feeling – and the tree surgeons looked bemused as they arrived this morning to find the middle class mob of six occupying two parking bays which had been sealed off to accommodate a cherry picker and cutting equipment for the job.

Police were called but officers left after chatting to the demonstrators.

Ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green was foiled in her attempt to cut down a 250-year-old oak tree today by her wealthy neighbours who protested over tea and cake

Ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green was foiled in her attempt to cut down a 250-year-old oak tree today by her wealthy neighbours who protested over tea and cake

Tree surgeons sat around outside the home of Harriet Green in Oxford

Tree surgeons sat around outside the home of Harriet Green in Oxford

Police speak to tree surgeons sat around outside the home of Harriet Green in Oxford

Police speak to tree surgeons sat around outside the home of Harriet Green in Oxford

Sam Hargreaves, manager of Nickolsons tree fellers, said: ‘We can’t take the tree down while people are sitting or standing underneath it. It would be unsafe.

‘We will have to come back another day after new parking restrictions have been applied and granted.

‘It is an 18-foot high tree and we could have cut it down in a day. But getting the permits again means we will probably come back in a week or two.’

The local residents’ association wrote to the local authority stating: ‘This house and its garden on its corner plot add much to the character of the North Oxford Conservation Area, an important suburb of Oxford.

‘What is being proposed will harm this as it is too dense and out of character with the grain of the area.’

Ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green was foiled in her attempt to cut down a 250-year-old oak tree today by her wealthy neighbours who protested over tea and cake

Ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green was foiled in her attempt to cut down a 250-year-old oak tree today by her wealthy neighbours who protested over tea and cake

 Ms Green declined to comment on the controversy.

The businesswoman, who appeared on BBC TV’s Question Time last week, was CEO of the Thomas Cook Group between 2012 and 2014.

She was was chairman and CEO of IBM Asia Pacific, and previously led three IBM business divisions.

BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s declared her one of Britain’s 100 most powerful women in 2013.

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