Angry tree-lovers in Oxford have accused the city council of vandalism after plans were unveiled to chop down a 200-year-old tree.

The 30-metre London Plane tree, in St Mary Magdalen churchyard, in Magdalen Street, will face the axe in the next few weeks due to safety concerns.

Glynis Robinson, from east Oxford, said: "It's horrific. I think the council are vandals.

"Trees are the lungs of the world and by taking the tree down they will be contributing to global warming.

"I love trees -- they are beautiful things."

Norma Burgin, of Stone Street, Oxford, who first spoke out about tree felling in 2003 after nine trees were cut down near her home in Morrell Avenue, said: "We must preserve trees at all costs as they are our life blood. I think the council has gone raving mad.

"Mary Magdalen churchyard is such a delightful area of Oxford -- how do they expect a seven-metre tree to survive with all the drunken louts about?"

City council tree officers carried out tests in June this year. The results showed the tree was becoming a danger to the public as diseased branches were losing their flexibility and were more likely to snap under pressure.

Mrs Robinson said she thought the city council was removing trees because of the possibility of being sued by people hit by falling branches.

She added: "Cars kill people all the time, but do they ban all cars? Cigarettes are harmful, but the government hasn't outlawed them, so why are trees being cut down?"

A 22-year-old student was killed in October 2002 after a 20-tonne horse chestnut tree shed a branch in 90mph winds in Gloucester Street.

A city council spokesman said: "The tree is diseased to such an extent that it would be necessary to remove the tree's crown so that just the truck remained.

"The trunk would continue to decay and require removal in the near future.

"We operate a policy of removing dead, dangerous and diseased trees and replanting felled trees, providing the location is suitable."

The council did consider pollarding the tree -- cutting back branches to the trunk, allowing fresh shoots to emerge.

But the spokesman added: "This option was considered unfavourable, due to the additional decay of the main stem, which would require the tree's complete removal in the near future."

The city council said the replacement tulip tree's trunk would be the diameter of a person's arm and would grow to more than 20 metres.

The spokesman added: "We have already planted 36 trees and have plans to increase this number to 130 in the coming planting season."

The city council felled 450 trees in 2004/2005. It manages about 90,000 trees.