COUNCIL chiefs have upheld a controversial decision to protect a walnut tree – despite claims it presents a serious health risk to children with allergies.

Childminder Tania Grimwood argued that walnuts dropping into her garden from overhanging branches could pose a risk to any child in her care with a nut allergy.

Mrs Grimwood, 44, of Heather Close, Hordle, lodged an appeal against a tree preservation order obtained by next door neighbour Michael Moring.

But the district council has ratified the order, which means she must secure the authority’s permission before pruning the 40-year-old tree.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s appeals panel Mrs Grimwood said she needed to reduce the number of walnuts that landed on her lawn.

“One of the youngsters in my care could have a nut allergy and we’ve already had to turn others away,” she said.

Her husband Stephen said they were often visited by friends and their children, some of whom had severe nut allergies.

He added: “The tree is very close to our boundary. We have a duty of care to minimise the risk.”

Liz Beckett, one of the council’s tree officers, said the tree preservation order was issued amid fears that Mr and Mrs Grimwood planned to remove 40 per cent of the branches – a figure disputed by the couple.

Mr Grimwood said: “It’s never been our intention to ruin or decimate the tree. We just want to control the situation.”

The couple were assured that the tree preservation order would not necessarily prevent them from obtaining permission to prune the branches.

But Mr Grimwood replied: “I suspect that we’d like more of the tree cut back than our neighbour would. We’d come up against resistance every time we submitted an application.”

In a letter to the council Mr Moring said most of the walnuts were removed by wildlife before they fell from the tree.

Panel members upheld the TPO, saying it would enable the council to exercise some control over how much pruning took place.

Councillors claimed the couple could fence off the tree or make sure they picked up all the walnuts that landed in their garden.