Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Market Square Trees Decision to go before full Council Cabinet early next year

Lancaster Market Square. Photo: John Freeman
After outcry over a proposal to remove the trees from Lancaster's Market Square - and the possibility that the decision would be made by just one councillor - it seems there has been a change of heart, at least as far as the decision making goes.

Earlier this month, Green Party councillors condemned a City Council report recommending removal of all seven mature lime trees from Market Square, a decision that, it was suggested, would be placed in the hands of just one single Labour member of Cabinet - presumably either Janice Hansen and David Smith.

The proposal to remove the trees came after Lancaster City Council approached Lancaster Business Improvement District to consult with the businesses on their experiences of the trees situated in Market Square. Although Lancaster BID claimed the City Council were not proposing to remove the trees in a response to our news story, but to replace them with a more suitable species for the space, Green councillor and Mayor Jon Barry countered that the report he saw did not say that the trees would be replaced.

"It says that seven trees will be replanted at some unspecified place in the district," he commented. "There is some vague notion of planters possibly being used (which will get in the way and grow pathetic trees) but there is absolutely no commitment to re-plant trees in Market Square."

Regardless of who said what, the very idea of the trees being removed provoked outrage from visitors to our news pages, the virtual-lancaster Facebook page and other Lancaster-dedicated social media outlets such as the 3400-string Lancaster Past & Present Facebook group.

Now, Skerton councillor Janet Hall, responding to voter concerns, has delivered the welcome news that a decision is likely to be made in February but that decision will go before the full cabinet.

"That means that not only will the decision be made by eight people, ,but it will be done so in a public meeting, which gives anyone the chance to have a look at the report, recommendations and rationale behind any proposed decision before that decision is made," she said.

"As always, there will be the opportunity for the public to speak at that meeting."

"If It comes to Cabinet, I will then form a judgement based on evidence," commented Councillor David Smith in his response to a voter. "I value the trees... but am aware of real problems of people slipping and falling in the square."

"As a 70-year old who walks down Market Street frequently I want to say that the resurfacing is much better than the old surface - it is only slippery in wet weather when there are seeds or other detritus on it," said one VL reader on hearing of the plan. "The trees add greatly to the ambience of the area and should only be removed if they make it unsafe."

"The Council would do well to pay attention to research carried out in Lancaster," commented reader Andrew Walker, referring to Lancaster University research into how trees cut down air pollution.

"Here's an idea. If the leaves cause a slip hazard, sweep them up," added local business man David Chandler.

"I appreciate there are cut-backs to Council services but they find time to plant thousands of flowers on roundabouts, so I'm sure a quick sweep isn't beyond them."


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