Jill Dando memorial tree cut down by housing developer in ‘tragic’ mistake 

From a correspondent:

The destruction of the Jill Dando memorial tree at the former BBC studios has just come to my attention through the news, though it actually happened in August.

There is always a sadness when trees are cut down. It does seem that trees are common casualties, along with other wildlife, in planning developments. This case does seem extraordinary as the new building was designed around this tree.

But what caught my eye was that this is yet more student accommodation in the city. Why has the city approved:

“Luxury boutique student accommodation in Exeter”?

“Is an elegant private studio or a luxury en-suite serviced apartment your choice? With a friendly team available 24/7, and a cinema, games room and gym on hand, there is no need to look elsewhere, we have it all!!”

Exeter City has a current local plan requirement of 3058 houses per year and a proposed new standard requirement of 5116 and any brownfield land is needed for the people of the city, not for the university. After all the university has a large campus where it can build for its own students.

But the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) would have picked up the pieces/land for the city. The neighbouring districts were going to help solve their land requirement problem with East Devon taking the lion’s share. Thank heavens the council had the courage to pull out.

Here is the article referred to:

Jill Dando memorial tree cut down by housing developer in ‘tragic’ mistake 


Bungling developers building posh student homes have caused fury after cutting down a memorial tree for murdered television presenter Jill Dando by mistake.

The former BBC studios, where the tragic Crimewatch star started her career, are being replaced by a new student complex.

The scheme was only approved after the developers agreed to keep the beautiful Acer tree that had become a spot where her friends and former colleagues went to remember her.

But it has now emerged the developers preserved the wrong tree at Walnut Gardens in Exeter, Devon – and cut down Jill’s memorial last month.

It is understood a planning report identified the wrong tree to developers, leaving former colleagues and friends “devastated” by the “tragic” mistake.


Blundering student housing developers mistakenly cut down the memorial while preserving the wrong one (Image: GOOGLE/APEX)

The developers StudyInn have now apologised and pledged to plant a fresh memorial tree and commission a sculpture of her on the site instead.

Exeter City Council said the memorial Acer tree was “not clearly marked” and a walnut tree that was more than 100-years old was instead identified as the one that needed saving.

Ms Dando’s former colleague at BBC Radio Devon Sarah Harris was among the friends who decided to plant the memorial tree where Ms Dando first worked for the corporation.

Sarah told the BBC she felt “upset and very, very let down”.

She said she had been communicating with the council and developers since February 2019 to ensure the tree was saved and was given several assurances it would be.

She added: “I’m devastated, but to think the walnut tree was the memorial – I mean she died in 1999, not 1899.

“You can’t have an old tree as a memorial tree – you plant a tree for somebody. I cannot believe it happened.”

Ms Harris added she did not blame the new developers who were given the wrong information.

Journalist and presenter Jill, who was murdered in 1999 outside her home, started her career working for the BBC in Devon.

Planning application images of how the resited memorial tree should have looked after completion of the development. (Image: APEX)

She became a newsreader for BBC Radio Devon in 1985 and that year, she transferred to BBC South West, where she presented a regional news magazine programme, Spotlight South West.

In 1987, she worked for Television South West, then BBC Spotlight before being transferred to London the following year where she went on to achieve national fame.

The tree was cut down in August and was noticed by another former colleague, Charles Eden, who went to look at the site to find “bare earth”.

He said it was “tragic” but he hoped the new tree and statue will be “something Exeter can be proud of.”

The surviving Walnut tree in the grounds of the former BBC studios (Image: APEX)

Developer StudyInn confirmed the wrong tree was marked on a planning report.

A spokesperson said the company had been aware a memorial tree was on site which had to be preserved and relocated.

“There was a tree survey commissioned by the applicant and it identified some important tress for retention in their current position and one tree for relocation,” the spokesperson said.

“The only reference we had to go on as to the identification of the Jill Dando Memorial tree was in the Planning Inspectors approval notice condition 7, which identifies the Jill Dando Memorial tree as T98 in the tree report which accompanied the Planning Application.

Walnut Gardens in Exeter, Devon (Image: SWNS)

“The tree report itself does not mention the Jill Dando Memorial Tree and T98 is a Walnut Tree. So we protected the trees identified for retention and used a tree specialist to remove the Walnut tree (T98) and keep it safe and preserved for re-planting in the re-developed site.

“Unfortunately the actual Jill Dando Memorial tree was a small tree which because of its size was not marked to be retained on the tree survey and it was removed before we knew its identity.

“We are very sorry that this has happened and appreciate that this has caused distress, particularly to those people who were close to Jill Dando and had planted the original tree.

“We can only look forward from this point and do what we can to facilitate the new memorial.”

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