Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The loss of trees in Victoria Park, Leicester

In a memo dated 6 November 2011, Leicester Civic Society elaborated on a previous suggestion to create a Victoria Park Centenary Walk between the Victoria Park Lodges and Edwin Lutyens' Grade 1 listed War Memorial. The memo envisaged the loss of a (presumably small) number of trees, as indicated by the 'red blob' in the sketch shown below, which is an extract from the sketch attached to the LCS memo of 6 November 2011.

Crucially, the LCS memo stated:  

"There would be approximately three times as many new trees planted as would require removal".

Between 24 July and 23 August  2013 there was a (perhaps not particularly well publicised?) public consultation, the details of which are still accessible here. The Leicester Mercury reported on the project in March 2014 under the heading "Leicester's Victoria Park cenotaph and other war memorials to get £100,000 revamp" – see article here, and the  'regeneration works' were announced on the Leicester City Council website in early 2016 (again, perhaps not adequately publicised?).

Meanwhile, construction of the Centenary Walk has commenced, and the associated loss of mature trees has caused an – apparently entirely justified – public outcry, as widely reported by the BBC under the heading "'Devastation' over 50 chopped Leicester Victoria Park trees" and in the Leicester Mercury.

About 50 mature trees in Victoria Park and more trees in the car park have been felled (BBC)

The actual planning documentation relating the project can be accessed here. At first glance, there is no clear indication of the scale of the tree loss. Perhaps the apparent obfuscation was deliberate, in order to prevent an outcry at the planning stage? Note in particular the 'existing' and 'proposed' plans.

Further 'research' by an LCS member revealed further details:
There's a very detailed arboricultural survey by the LCC Trees and Woodlands Team here. It identifies, classifies and categorizes each tree (pp7-14) and cross refers to a numbered map on the last page. An arboricultural impact assessment (AIA) on p15 states that; - 76 trees will need to be removed - a further 31 will be affected and may suffer as a result of the works - 49 trees will be planted as part of the development - a minimum of 29 trees will be planted in the park generally to offset the losses. There may have been promises subsequently to plant more trees. 

In summary, it seems 'safe' to draw the following conclusions:
  • The large number of trees removed obviously exceeds what was expected based on the 'red blob' in the LCS sketch of 2011 (see above).
  • The number of replacement trees is obviously nowhere near three times the trees removed and could therefore be regarded as inadequate.
  • It would appear that there is a good basis for a campaign to push for significantly more new trees.