RESIDENTS battling to save a 150-year-old beech tree in Settle are calling on the town’s rugby club to start talking to them about ways to save it.

Members of ROOTS, the campaigning group formed to keep the tree, say they have not been able to get anyone from the North Ribblesdale club to discuss the issue.

The club has put forward plans to cut down the tree, on its Gillians Road ground, as part of a scheme to improve drainage of the pitch, which can get heavily waterlogged.

The rugby club has permission from Craven District Council to cut down the tree, which formerly had a preservation order, as part of the scheme.

It is believed part of the cost would be paid by Sport England, the public body which aims to promote and improve community sport.

But, say ROOTS members, they have made several attempts to speak to the rugby club to find ways top keep the tree.

The group asked Skipton MP Julian Smith to look into the matter.

A letter to Mr Smith from the Chief Executive of Sport England, Jennie Price, said: "We are aware of the ongoing dialogue between the club, consultant and contractor regarding an alternative method of delivering the project which may avoid the need to remove the tree.

"We understand the project works completion date has been extended to December 31 2018. During this period we would hope that a solution agreeable to all parties can be found through a process of discussion and negotiation.”

ROOTS spokeswoman Jenny Hall said that putting back the completion date provided an opportunity for the rugby club to talk to all interested parties.

She said: “The rugby club is known and valued as an important part of this community. But in this instance, they are not taking part at all. So far they have ignored all requests to discuss the future of both the pitch and the trees. So come on rugby club - do as Sport England have asked and talk to us!”

Members say they have never had a problem with the drainage scheme itself, and have always understood that the work needs to take place, but feel that work should not endanger the beech tree, or any others in the area.

Jenny Hall added that they also feared that other beeches could be adversely affected by the scheme as it stands. According to Craven District Council's planning permission, she said, at least two other trees could possibly suffer root damage in the future.

A spokesperson for North Ribblesdale RUFC said the the club did not wish to comment at this time.