A prominent councillor was dragged away, handcuffed and arrested after the latest Oxford tree-felling protest today.

Deborah Glass Woodin had gathered in Norfolk Street with a handful of campaigners after it emerged Oxford City Council had started to cut down 100-year-old London plane trees in preparation for the demolition of the Westgate car park.

But after workmen fenced off an area in nearby Greyfriars Street and started to saw down trees, a standoff with police became heated.

Protesters complained that demolition of the car park was not definite because there still had to be a public inquiry over the future of the site.

Ms Glass Woodin, a 45-year-old county councillor, mother-of-two and widow of former Green group leader Mike Woodin, tried to enter the public car park but was prevented from doing do.

Crying and hysterical, she was arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass by two officers as an angry crowd tried to prevent her being bundled into the back of a police car.

And just when it looked like the situation had calmed down, Jericho boatyard veteran Bruce Hegarty slipped through a cordon and managed to shin up a tree.

As the Oxford Mail went to press tonight, he was still there, supported by a crowd.

At least 14 police and Police Community Support Officers sealed off all entrances to the car park, while others filmed and photographed protesters.

Before her arrest, Ms Glass Woodin said: "I am embarrassed to be associated with an organisation (city council) that behaves in this way. It's as if they are saying all this is a forgone conclusion.

"I am not a tree-hugger. I am a democracy-lover and they have no right to pre-empt the result of a public inquiry."

Although planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of the Westgate Centre - including the demolition of the car park - the result of a public inquiry held into the compulsory purchase of sheltered housing in Abbey Place is due early next month.

Until then, the car park cannot be knocked down.

Councillors representing Carfax ward, in which the disturbance occurred, said they were unaware of the tree-cutting exercise.

Carfax city councillor Paul Sargent said: "The trees are irreplaceable and if for some reason the work doesn't go ahead, the natural screening has been removed prem- aturely. From all reports I have heard, I feel Deborah was wrongfully arrested.

"This is a disgrace and a sad day for democracy in Oxford."

The protest took place just 200 yards from where Gabriel Chamberlain is protesting against plans to fell trees in Bonn Square.

Westgate witness Jennie Bailey said: "This was all a bit mad - especially seeing as she is a councillor.

"I was horrified with the way the police were handling her - she was being treated in a rough way."

City council spokesman Chris Lee added: "These trees are being removed as part of the preparation for the Westgate redevelopment.

"The Westgate development will provide a welcome boost to the range of shopping facilities in Oxford.

"As one small part of this major improvement, the Westgate Partnership considers it is essential to remove these trees."

A police spokesman said: "We don't feel it is suitable to comment at this time."