A historic elm remains standing after workmen moved in to revamp a controversial roundabout.

Contractors from Brighton and Hove City Council began its £1.5 million scheme to improve the Seven Dials junction yesterday.

Campaigners gathered around a tree in Vernon Terrace, Hove, for a number of hours in an attempt to stop it being felled.

Messages of support, such as “I’m a lean green oxygen making machine” have also been stapled to the trunk.

It comes as council leader Jason Kitcat claimed the tree, which is causing damage to the pavement and highway, may have been saved if residents approved the original scheme.

Campaigner Mill Ferguson, of Addison Road, Hove, described the move as “cynical”.

She added residents were due to return to the tree today and continue their vigil.

In a letter to residents, council leader Jason Kitcat said: “It is very sad that this tree has to go.

“We did consult on an option of narrowing the carriageway at that point of Vernon Terrace, to make it a one-way junction with the roundabout, but this was very strongly rejected by the local community.

“There might have been an outside chance that this narrowing would have allowed for retention, but that was not the approach supported by the consultation responses.”

Coun Kitcat added the local authority only removed a tree if absolutely necessary.

Work on the busy junction is set to continue for nine months.