THE imminent loss of a diseased tree in the heart of Newton Abbot has delivered an opportunity to create a ‘stylish and practical’ spot where shoppers can meet to enjoy coffee or check their phones.

The mature but ailing alder in Courtenay Street has been shedding branches for some time and now safety specialists at County Hall have demanded that it be felled.

But concerned by the prospect of creating a trip hazard, the officials insisted that a tall stump had to remain until a replacement can be planted next year.

Town Development Manager Sally Henley, employed by Newton Abbot Town Council, was horrified by the proposal, so popped on her thinking cap to come up with a solution.

‘It was going to stick out like a sore thumb, right in the heart of our primary shopping area and really just not acceptable to my mind,’ said Sally.

‘Then it struck me, why not incorporate the stump into a bistro table where people can rest their coffee cups or check phones?

‘Members of the Newton Abbot Community Shed have really embraced the idea and come up with a design that’s stylish and practical, including a canopy.

‘I have run the idea past the County Council and they have no concerns, now our facility maintenance officers at the Town Council will work with the Community Shed once the tree has come down.

‘I really want to reassure people that this isn’t a Plymouth-style removal of unwanted trees just for the sake of it, this is a safety matter that needs addressing and a new sapling will be planted next year.

‘So what we have now is a temporary opportunity to add something new and actually quite attractive.

‘And if it proves to be popular, perhaps we could see other bistro tables appearing across town, although not of course at the expense of felling more trees but by installing bespoke furniture.’

The alder is scheduled to be felled by the first week in September.

Sally is also holding talks with county officials about other trees in the town centre that need attention, hoping they can be included in next year’s work programme linked to the proposed Queen Street traffic restriction scheme.