TOWN centre traders in Abingdon have expressed their anger after an old cherry tree was chopped down as part of the £3.5m County Hall Museum development.

The Japanese cherry tree, which stood next to the museum in Market Place, was cut down last week but protesters say there was no reason to axe it.

Cathy White, from Scruffs shoe shop, said: “Everybody is really sad.”

Abingdon Chamber of Commerce president Paul Townsend said he thought the tree was going to be saved, adding: “There was a lot of uproar about it. I was quite shocked.”

Outdoor Traders owner James Choularton said: “I think a lot of people lobbied for the tree to stay.

“The council justified removing it by saying it was not a fine specimen of a Japanese cherry tree but it had probably been there for decades and I think it was a shame it had to go.”

Construction firm Leadbitter said the tree was in “poor health” and a replacement would be planted.

The museum has been closed since November last year for restoration.

It is expected to reopen in the spring.

The project will see three new galleries on the second floor including a room dedicated to Abingdon’s former MG car factory.

There will also be a new cafe in the basement and a lift.

Vale of White Horse District Council gave permission for the tree to be removed as a part of the County Hall scheme, which includes repaving the area where the tree was growing.