A TREE dangerously overhanging a Shanklin footpath cannot be chopped down — because a red squirrel is living in the branches.

The path at Chine Hollow, which links the Old Village and Popham Road, was closed last week as the tree was deemed dangerous to pedestrians.

But during a survey of the tree, overhanging the footpath because of recent ground movement, Island Roads staff found a squirrel's nest.

The red squirrel is a protected species it is illegal to interfere with a drey. As a result, the tree must be left untouched until the squirrels have left.

In the meantime, the footpath will remain closed. A diversion has been put in place with access to Rylstone Gardens from the Old Village.

Island Roads' network manager Kevin Burton said: "The condition of the tree is such that it is not safe to leave the pathway open.

"However, it is not only ethically right that we look after our local wildlife, it is also the law.

"We will therefore liaise with the relevant local experts to ensure any remedial action to the tree does not interfere with the squirrels who are currently using it.

"This means the closure will be in place longer than usual but we are sure residents will understand."

Helen Butler of the Wight Squirrel Project said: "I appreciate the fact that Island Roads is doing the right thing and taking advice on this issue."