THE Georgian House Hotel's 500-year-old chestnut tree is well on the way to being turned into a work of art - but the sculpture is at the centre of a controversial debate this week. One local resident is up in arms over the loss of the tree, which she calls "a piece of Haslemere history". A member of the leisure centre at The Georgian, who also lives nearby, thinks that the tree should never have been cut up. Jill Di Marzio said: "Unlike the hotel manager, Mr Wingham, many of us love the chestnut tree and certainly did not think it ugly. "I represent a lot of people who are very upset at what is being done to this lovely 500-year-old chestnut tree." In a letter to Waverley she said: "The tree is perfectly healthy and shows no sign of decay at all. "Twenty years ago a lot of money was spent to ensure the continued long life of the tree, by administering slow release fertilisers through boreholes." Hotel manager Michael Wingham said that a tree officer had inspected the tree and did not place an order on the tree to prevent the work. But Mrs Di Marzio told The Herald: "It appears that the officer who inspected the tree was unaware of the 500-year-old history and value that this healthy tree played in the lives of many people who knew it. "It seems to me and others that the matter has not been given the serious attention that it deserves and Haslemere has lost not only a beautiful tree but also a piece of its history." John Bennett, from Waverley Borough Council, confirmed to Mrs Di Marzio that a tree officer had visited the site. He said the council can place a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) to protect trees in conservation areas but that is not allowed to protect trees without making a TPO. In a letter to Mrs Di Marzio, he said: "To enable the council to make a TPO the tree needs to offer an amenity to the public and therefore must be clearly viewable from a public place and must be of good vitality. "On inspection by the tree officer it was apparent that the tree offered no public amenity and was of low vitality. It was therefore considered not possible to protect the tree further." Mrs Di Marzio told The Herald this week that the tree had "plenty of vitality," citing the birds and squirrels which lived in the tree as an example. She said: "For the majority of people using the leisure centre it is a focal point when you are on the treadmill. It was a lovely old tree full of life and full of birds." Mr Wingham said: "Following consultation with the Waverley tree officer, who was in agreement with us that the tree was dying and likely to cause damage to the surrounding buildings, it was decided the tree was to be felled. "After discussion it was decided that rather than being removed the tree could be used to create a stunning feature, which was when we searched for someone to mould the tree into something of beauty once more. "Tom Harvey was commissioned to sculpt the tree into a design of his creation. This is a huge capital investment for the hotel and would have been far more cost effective to remove the tree altogether. Instead we are creating something for the whole town and visitors to enjoy for many years to come."