A PENSIONER is to appeal after losing a second attempt to have a neighbour's overhanging tree pruned.

Despite Glenys Haire's fears that in high wind it may cause damage to her bungalow or herself, Darlington Borough Council planning committee rejected the application to have the mature oak tree in her neighbour's garden cut back.

After the decision, Coun Bill Stenson, ward councillor for Mowden, pledged to demand councillors' and officers' resignations if the tree caused an accident.

Mrs Haire had a previous application to prune the tree, which is protected by a tree preservation order, turned down by the committee in November 2003.

In her most recent application, Mrs Haire, who lives in the Mowden area of town, said in a letter to the committee that branches from the 200-year-old oak had fallen on to her property during bad storms last January. She claimed it had damaged her drive, and leaves and moss deposits were expensive and troublesome for her to clear from the roof.

She said the problems with the oak were putting a strain on her health.

Her neighbour did not object to the application and was willing to contribute financially to the work.

However, planning officers recommended permission should be refused after the council's arboricultural officer visited the site.

His report said the oak was healthy, therefore felling it would be unacceptable and crown pruning - required to reduce the formation of roof moss - would have an unsatisfactory impact on the tree's form and appearance.

Trees under preservation orders can be pruned of dead wood, but damage to healthy branches without planning permission is a criminal act.

Mrs Haire was represented at the meeting by Coun Stenson, who said that Mrs Haire did not want the tree to be felled, just cut back to give her peace of mind.

He pointed out that many trees thought to be healthy had lost branches after severe weather in January.

"Who is going to be responsible? Is the committee going to be responsible? If one of these branches comes down, it will demolish the bungalow.

"All Mrs Haire wants is for some of these branches to be cut down so she can sleep at night."

But Coun John Williams, council leader, moved to reject the application, saying the committee should follow the tree specialist's advice.

"It would be an act of extreme vandalism if we agreed to do anything to this magnificent specimen."

In support, Coun Frank Robson, chairman, said that the oak was an example of the town's many fine mature trees and part of the town's heritage.

The application was refused.

After the meeting, Mrs Haire told the D&S Times that she was disgusted and furious with the decision.

"I can't believe it. If you see the tree, it is right over my roof. When I first moved in here, I had about 12 bags of leaves in the first week."

Coun Stenson claimed photographs shown in the meeting did not accurately portray the extent to which the tree encroached on her property.

"Common sense should have prevailed and it didn't. They should have had a site visit," he said. "She is frightened to death there is going to be an accident. If there is an accident, I will bring the full force down on the council and the officers. I will be asking for their resignations."