Nut allergy fears spark battle for 'landmark' walnut tree

Chantel Beck with her daughters, Bonnie, five, left, and six-year-old Beau who has a nut allergy

Chantel Beck with her daughters, Bonnie, five, left, and six-year-old Beau who has a nut allergy, in front of the tall overhanging walnut tree, which Chantel wants to have reduced. - Credit: Denise Bradley

A council is seeking to protect a walnut tree despite a mother claiming it poses a danger to her daughter who has a serious nut allergy. 

Chantal Beck, 40, fears the 17m tree in a neighbour’s garden poses a health risk to six-year-old Beau because walnuts drop from overhanging branches into her small garden in Trowse.

 

The mum-of-two has asked to be able to reduce the height and spread of the 100-year-old tree after her daughter suffered a serious allergic reaction after playing in the garden in 2019. 

“It didn't occur to me that she might have a reaction because she couldn't crack a walnut open so was unlikely to eat one,” she said.  

The tall walnut tree overhanging Chantel Beck's garden

The tall walnut tree overhanging Chantel Beck's garden; the reason for Chantel to be in a dispute with the council to reduce it's size as her six-year-old daughter, Beau, has a nut allergy. - Credit: Denise Bradley

“But they mulch and through play it gets on her fingers and hands and then on her face and before you know it it’s in her system. 


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“She had swollen ears, swollen lips and was clutching her throat. Then she had hives on her body. The reaction isn’t just itchy skin, it is anaphylactic.”

Ms Beck was given now lapsed permission in 2018 to reduce the size of the tree by four metres, but has applied again following medical advice to reduce her daughter’s exposure to walnuts. 

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However South Norfolk Council said new proposals to reduce the tree’s height and spread were unacceptable as they would be “beyond the normal parameters of work for a healthy tree”.

The bucketful of last years' walnuts which Chantal Beck has picked up in their garden from the overh

The bucketful of last years' walnuts which Chantal Beck has picked up in their garden from the overhanging walnut tree. She is in a dispute to reduce the size of the tree as her six-year-old daughter, Beau, has a nut allergy. - Credit: Denise Bradley

In a letter, conservation and tree officer Imogen Mole said: “The extent of the work will cause ongoing problems with a tree of this age and species and is likely to lead to disease and decay.”

She added “some pruning work would be acceptable” but that due to the “strong feeling and response we have received” the council was now seeking a tree preservation order.

Eleven people have objected to cutting back the tree, although 17 people have backed Ms Beck’s application. 

One objector states: “As an artist I draw and photograph it regularly, loving the age and dignity of its perfectly shaped crown. 

“Precisely because of its size it is visible from various parts of the village so that it contributes to the rural character of Trowse and can be enjoyed by many of the village residents.” 

Six-year-old Beau Beck suffered a nut allergy reaction after playing out in the garden below the walnut tree in Trowse.

Six-year-old Beau Beck suffered a nut allergy reaction after playing out in the garden below the walnut tree in Trowse. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Another described the tree as a “landmark”, adding: “It is the only large walnut tree in the village and many of us enjoy the walnut harvest in the late summer. The walnuts themselves are especially large.” 

However, one person supporting the plans stated: “Although it will be upsetting from a visual perspective for some local residents, when you consider the very dangerous health implications this could have on a small child, I can’t see how anyone can object to this.”  

Ms Beck said the dangers posed by downed nuts meant her daughter had become fearful of playing out in the garden with her five-year-old sister Bonnie.

Chantel Beck with her daughters, Bonnie, five, left, and six-year-old Beau who has a nut allergy, in

Chantel Beck with her daughters, Bonnie, five, left, and six-year-old Beau who has a nut allergy, in front of the tall overhanging walnut tree. - Credit: Denise Bradley

“I do everything I can to collect the walnuts but with the best will in the world I cannot be sure to collect every single one,” she said.

“It’s a lovely tree, about 100 years old, it’s in a conservation area and I don’t dispute that it is a wonderful part of nature. 

“Unfortunately I have a daughter who is allergic to walnuts and it covers our garden every year with walnuts.

“I don’t want it to be felled. I’d just like it reduced so I can manage the risk.” 

Trowse councillor Lisa Neal.

Trowse councillor Lisa Neal. - Credit: South Norfolk Council

Lisa Neal, councillor for Trowse, said: “There has been no firm decision made yet. I have been in contact with Chantal to see if we can find a compromise to help both sides. 

“On one side you have Chantal’s daughter with the health implications, on the other people feel it is a lovely tree and don’t want to have too much cut off it because that could damage or kill the tree. It is a hard one.”

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