A LANDMARK beech tree in a moorland village graveyard threatened with felling could be saved by new technology.

Electricity North West had announced it was to cut down the tree in Tockholes United Reformed Church’s burial ground as its proximity to power lines was judged dangerous.

It said a consultation with residents preferred this to the disruption of re-routing the cables underground.

But Andrew Rosthorn, of Ivy Cottages, who led protests against felling the tree in 2010, objected to Blackburn with Darwen Council which then halted the felling.

Now he has been told by the company an innovative technology could make the tree safe without chopping it down.

In a letter senior ELNW executive Stephanie Trubshaw tells Mr Rosthorn: "We were planning to fell the tree until we very recently discovered a new option being developed by our Innovations Team, where one of our engineers has developed a method to protect open wires within reach of climbable trees.

"Due to concerns raised by you and other residents within the Tockholes area, we have agreed to trial this solution on the beech tree."

Mr Rosthorn said: "The law by which our state-owned power lines were privatised in 1989 requires ENWL to ‘have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty, of conserving flora of special interest’. I reckon that 'flora' doesn't come much bigger or better than this magnificent 170-year old beech tree."

Neighbour Barry Hall said: "The beech tree must not be felled as this would have the most serious and catastrophic impact for the village and for generations to come. The tree was there long before the electric cables."

Tom Woolley, project manager for the work, said: “We have potentially developed a new technology which will allow engineers to protect overhead lines within reach of climbable trees.

“Given how positive we are about the technology, we’ve approved a change in policy which means we will able to carry out a trial on the Beech tree in Tockholes.

“The trial will be carried out over several months and our lines team will undertake regular checks to see if the technology is working.

"This is a first for the organisation and there are no guarantees it will provide a long-term answer but we are doing all we can to find the most appropriate solution.”

Darwen West ward’s Cllr Dave Smith said: "This will please those who want to save the tree but not everybody in the village.

"It has split opinion. There are some people who want to see the tree felled regardless."