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A mighty oak for Covid heroes

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A mighty oak tree will stand in lasting tribute to the NHS heroes of Middlesbrough's Covid-19 response.

And it's also one local Councillor's contribution to a drive to plant thousands of new trees across the borough.

Longlands & Beechwood ward member Cllr Joan McTigue paid for the oak from the allowance she receives as a committee chair, and is dedicating it those who have put their own lives on the line during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr McTigue was joined by operatives from Middlesbrough Council's Area Care team to plant the tree on the field opposite The James Cook University Hospital on Marton Road.

And in the new year she plans to install a plaque explaining the tree's significance, and the town's gratitude for the work of those on the front line.

Cllr McTigue said: "We have never had a year like this in my lifetime and I hope we never have to live through one like it again.

"I wanted to plant this oak tree as a commemoration of the tireless work and sometimes terrible sacrifices made by NHS staff in caring for those afflicted by this dreadful disease.

"They've put their own lives on the line to look after and protect us, and as a town we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

"I also like to put some of my allowance towards making my ward look nicer with bulbs, plants, bushes and trees, and we are losing far too many trees because of house building.

"I hope the tree will be here for generations - long after we have gone - as a reminder to people of the dedicated staff did so much for my ward and the whole town in 2020."

Dr Richard Cree, an Intensive Care Consultant from The James Cook University Hospital, said: "All our staff at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have worked tirelessly over the past nine months, dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Many lives have been saved and this tree is a great way of recognising everyone's hard work and dedication.

"But there is still a way to go yet. People continue to be admitted to hospital and are becoming seriously ill with Covid-19; the virus has not gone away.

"We can all play our part in keeping ourselves and everyone else safe." 

Welcoming the planting, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "I'm committed planting at least 10,000 trees across Middlesbrough over the next two years, so initiatives like Joan's are a great way to be part of that.

"Trees are so important as the lungs of our environment, absorbing CO2 and helping to enhance existing green areas and bring back lost open space.

"They're great for recreation and physical activity, improve the appearance of the town and contribute to tackling climate change.

"Combining all those benefits with a tribute to our amazing NHS staff who have given so much in 2020 is just a great idea."

Area Care staff with Cllr Joan McTigue at the tree planting