Friday, 15 January 2016

City Council Tries to Defend its plan to remove Market Square trees

Councillor Hanson: "I want to see trees in our urban areas and Market Square in particular"
Battling to defend its proposal to cut down Market Square lime trees in the face of mounting opposition, Lancaster City Council has issued a statement saying it would quickly move to plant new trees if a decision is taken to remove those in Lancaster’s Market Square.

That’s the message from Councillor Janice Hanson, the council’s Cabinet member for regeneration, but the statement also make it clear that the costs of maintaining the trees is one of the main issues driving the proposal, which is not supported by local councillors representing the ward, the Council's Tree Officer, market traders or many city centre businesses.

The city council’s Cabinet will meet next Tuesday to discuss the proposals, but campaigners will be trying to gather 200 signatures on a physical petition to ensure the proposal is debated by Full Council on Saturday morning in Market Square.

Lancaster Market Square. Photo: John Freeman

Over 1200 people have already signed an online petition against the plan.

“I want to assure people that I want to see trees in our urban areas and Market Square in particular," says Councillor Hanson.

“My view is that we need to take action because of the problems they cause, but we can also retain the benefits they bring by planting a more appropriate and manageable species.

“By doing this and reducing the number to three to four trees, which would be placed in planters, we can open up the beauty of Market Square while still benefiting from the colour they bring. They would remain a manageable size and we would also plant an additional seven new trees elsewhere in the district, meaning a net gain overall.

“Therefore, if Cabinet supports my proposals, we will move quickly to plant new trees because we do need them, but of a more appropriate number, size and species for Market Square.

The Council claims a particular issue with the current lime trees in the Square is that they are a haven for aphids that feed on the tree’s sap. They then secrete ‘honeydew’, a sugar rich sticky liquid, on to the new surfacing below, causing it to become slippery in wet weather.

But this is not the only issue – the trees also block out light from the Square and obscure buildings, the Council says. Cutting back and thinning is needed with increasing frequency to keep the crowns from buildings, to keep views through to business fronts relatively clear and to assure street lighting is effective.

With rapidly reducing resources due to Government cutbacks, this cost is unsustainable.

Removing the trees and having trees in planters instead would, the Council argues, also mean there is more space for seating, to permit more use for street cafes and for the Charter Market.

Campaigners argue the Market Square paving, installed as part of the Square Routes refurbishment of the city centre, was ill chosen and is slippery when wet even without leaf mould or other litter issues.

"Trees are not happy in planters," one objector responded to Councillor Hanson's comments. "No species will thrive in a severely restricted root zone. Trees in planters need watering in summer and annual feeding with compost.

"I have lived in Lancaster for ten years, working as a garden and landscape designer. In all that time I have never noticed honeydew from aphids under the limes in Market Square.

"We don't have an aphid problem.," they added. "We have an absence of birds and biodiversity problem. Is it chaffinches that gorge on aphids? My solution: Create square planted borders under the existing trees to attract more wildlife."

• You can download a copy of the physical petition form and get your friends to sign here then take it along on Saturday. If you can't get there, email Cherry Conovan on and she will organise collection of completed petitions.

You can sign an online petition here on - but only the physical petition will count if you want to see the proposal debated by Full Council. Signatures are being gathered on
Saturday morning in Market Square. Over 1200 people have signed this petition.

Read our Open Letter to City Cabinet members about the proposal, challenging some of the claims made in the report

Read our report on the petition launch here

• All the documents relating to the proposal can be found here in the agenda for the Cabninet meeting next Tuesday, 19th January, but if you just want to read the proposal it's here and a background documents offering the views of named local councillors (who oppose the idea) and anonymous members of Lancaster BID who support it, that's here

Do You Think Cutting Down Market Square's trees is a Bad Idea?

Lobby your own City councillor

• Write to the City Council's cabinet members and tell them what you think. They're all Labour members (sadly, Labour voted to get rid of the trees when this was originally voted on).

• Eileen Blamire, Labour (Current Chair - can have casting vote if votes tied):

• Janice Hanson, Labour (Vice Chair. Holds the portfolio for this decision, so she'll present & hold sway)

• Abbot Bryning, Labour:

• Darren Clifford, Labour:

• Karen Leytham, Labour:

• Richard Newman-Thompson, Labour:

• Margaret Pattison, Labour:

• David Smith, Labour:

• Lobby Lancaster's MP Cat Smith: 01524 566 551 or 01253 490 440 email: | Twitter @CatSmithMP

• Want to get a quick response from Lancaster City Council? Tweet and include the twitter handle: @LancasterCC hashtag #savelancasterlimes

• The Council's Facebook page:; there is already a discussion thread about the proposal on their Facebook page here

There is a Facebook group for the discussion about the trees here

• Complain to the council officer recommending and responsible for their removal direct, Mark Davies, Lancaster City Council's chief officer for the environment. Call him on 01524 582000 – ask for him specifically


Andy Little said...

The council would probably get a lot more respect if they held their hands up and admitted the truth, which is that they got the choice of paving completely wrong. We don't want to live in a sterile concrete and stone environment - and four unhealthy trees in plant pots is by no means a replacement for mature trees.

Keep the trees and if you don't want the embarrassment of having to remove the offending slabs, have them engraved with designs by local people and make a feature of them. This would improve the level of grip, be an interesting feature, and the money saved on power washing could be spent on a decent local arborist who could look after the trees.

Unknown said...

Why isn’t the council holding itself to the same standards that it applies to its constituents?

For example, in 2014 Councillor Caroline Jackson, now Deputy Mayor, had planning approval granted for the Claver Hill project subject to these restrictions:

“If trees/hedgerows are identified for removal, replacement planting will be required at a minimum replacement level of 3:1 (3 new trees for each tree removed or damaged). The approved scheme shall be implemented in the first planting season following completion of the development, or following first occupation/use, whichever is the earliest.… The replacement tree or shrub must be of similar size to that originally planted. Reason: In the interests of the amenity of the area and to ensure that the approved landscaping scheme is implemented and maintained to an appropriate standard” (see section 5:…/00813270.pdf ).

So far the council has suggested that they may, in their own time, replace these trees with another 7 trees - either in planters or even in a completely different location. If they were to apply the same standards, they would be required at a minimum to plant 21 new trees of a similar size to those removed, and not somewhere else but in the same location and within a similar specified short timescale.

The negative impact of removing these trees on visual amenity will be immense. Bearing in mind the extremely tenuous future of both the Library and the City Museum due to funding cuts, perhaps the council should consider planting an even more diverse range of plants, trees and shrubs because it is likely that soon there will be little reason to visit the square other than to enjoy its civic beauty.