RESIDENTS fighting to save an ancient tree are celebrating after a utility firm gave up its bid to chop it down.

Campaigners have won a battle to save a 160-year-old beech tree in the grounds of the United Reformed Church in Tockholes.

Last month locals in the village staged a last-gasp protest to prevent Electricity North West workmen from cutting down the tree at the church in Chapel Lane.

The row centred on the utility firm over-ruling a council-imposed tree preservation order by exploiting a health and safety exemption about potential access to overhead power lines.

Now, the firm has come up with a 'temporary solution' of insulating the power lines closest to the tree.

Terry Clarke, vegetation control manager for Electricity North West, said: "It is essential that we keep a close eye on trees close to power lines for both safety and supply reasons.

"If someone was to climb the tree, they could get dangerously close to the lines.

"Or if all or part of the tree was to fall onto the lines due to decay, then a number of customers would lose their supply.

"We have liaised with local people, the church, and the local council and have arranged a temporary solution of insulating the electricity lines closest to the tree for safety reasons.

"We will continue to monitor the tree's condition alongside the council so that we can be sure that it does not pose a threat to customers' supplies."

Andrew Rosthorn, 68, who parked his car under the branches in a successful bid to stop the tree surgeons, said he was 'delighted'.

He added: "The tree was too good to die. These trees are noble and they have been there since before the chapel was built.

"It is a marvellous part of the village and we are very pleased at that it has been saved."

Coun Dave Harling, executive member for regeneration, said: "I'm delighted that a compromise has been found to save the tree."