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Brimmon oak in Wales comes second in European Tree Of The Year contest

A giant Welsh oak tree saved from being felled for a bypass has come runner-up in the European Tree Of The Year contest.

The Brimmon oak in Newtown, Powys, which has a girth of nearly 20ft (6m), was second in the Europe-wide competition.

Poland's entry, the Oak Josef, which sheltered a Jewish family hiding from the Nazis and featured on a Polish banknote, came top in the public poll.

Wales's entry secured 16,203 votes, while England's Sycamore Gap tree came fifth with 7,123 votes, Northern Ireland's Holm Oak came sixth with 7,101 votes and Scotland's Ding Dong Tree in a school playground was eighth with 6,237 votes.

The giant Brimmon oak hit the headlines in 2009 when plans emerged to fell it to make way for the planned bypass, but landowner Mervyn Jones objected.

His campaign to save the oak, which was backed by a 5,000-strong petition to the Welsh Assembly, finally saw the Welsh Government agree to vary the bypass route in the hope of saving the tree.

All four UK trees, which were selected to go forward to the European Tree Of The Year Contest by a public vote, are receiving a £1,000 care grant, which will pay for expert assessments, or even a celebratory event.

The Woodland Trust, which ran the UK competition, is renewing its call for better protection of the country's "ancients", both trees and woodlands, so developments that damage them are only approved in "wholly exceptional" circumstances.

The call comes after Government proposals in the recent housing white paper to put ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees on the same footing in planning as national parks and green belt land so development is restricted.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: "The UK is rightly renowned for having some of the best examples of ancient trees in Europe, so it's good to see them finally achieving recognition in the competition.

"There is now an opportunity to secure better protection for them following the publication of the housing white paper and we need the public to help us make it happen."

Clara Govier, head of charities at People's Postcode Lottery, which supported the UK vote and funded the care grants, said: "It has been great to raise awareness of so many special trees and the affection people have for them.

"Massive congratulations to the Welsh entry for doing so brilliantly well!"

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