FORMER pupils and staff of Bishop David Brown School have reacted angrily after trees planted in memory of youngsters who died while at the school were cut down to make space for a car park.

One of the trees was planted in 1992 in memory of Luke Willis, who died after suffering an asthma attack, and the other one six years later for Jemma Doyle, who died of meningitis aged 14.

John Reed, a former deputy head teacher, supervised the planting of a sweet gum in 1998 for Jemma, next to Luke’s tulip tree.

“Pulling those trees up is akin to going into a graveyard and pulling up headstones,” Mr Reed said.

Anna Neale, a professional musician and songwriter, was in the same year as Jemma and said: “One day she was there, and the next she wasn’t”.

“I’ll never forget being called into the hall and being told what had happened,” Ms Neale said.

“Losing someone in such tragic circumstances when you don’t think about mortality is quite devastating,” she added.

“You wouldn’t go to the crematorium and rip up the memorial trees. The school was good at putting up memorials to teachers and pupils who died while at the school.

“The tree was a living reminder of Jemma and a place for reflection.”

Ms Neale said the pupils were a tight community, many of whom are still in contact with each other.

Other people who attended the school took to a Facebook page to express their anger over the loss of the trees with Pam Lysionek calling it “shocking and disrespectful”. Carole Evans said it was “disrespectful, disgraceful, unimaginable” and Pamela Church branded it as “vandalism”.

James Rodgers, the head of school, told the News & Mail the removal of the trees was not instigated by the school, but was part of the wider regeneration of Sheerwater by Woking Borough Council and completed by its contractors.

A Woking Borough Council spokesman said: “Neither the council nor the developer was made aware of the significance of the trees and have not been involved in the school’s plans to relocate the memorial.

“We apologise for the distress caused by the removal of the trees and are willing to work with the school to ensure the lives of these pupils are remembered.”

For more on this story, see today’s edition of the Woking News & Mail