Lancaster Trees at Risk

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At the end of last year Lancaster City Council announced plans to have seven trees in Market Square, in the centre of town, cut down due to health concerns.

The council believe that secretion of honeydew from aphids living in the trees is causing the pathways by the trees to become dangerously slippery during wet weather, as well as making the surfaces more difficult to clean. Due to their great size it is argued that the trees are also affecting businesses and consumers as they obscure a number of buildings and prevent the streets from being well-lit.

In response, Lancaster City Council has contacted Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID) in order to assess businesses experiences of the trees in Market Square. A BID spokesperson explains, “Lancaster City Council are not proposing to remove the trees, but to replace them with a more suitable species for the space.”

The council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Janet Hanson says, “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.”

Whilst it is reassuring to know that the impact of any trees removed will be met with the replanting of new trees in more suitable areas, Market Square will be changed completely. The Council has also considered placing some trees in planters on the square to ensure that some natural scenery remain on Market Square.

The Council’s plans have however been met with concern from many local people, who believe the trees are an integral part of Market Square due to their aesthetic value. Local Lancaster resident and Lancaster University staff member, Ian Smith, started a petition on change.org called ‘Preserve the Trees in Lancaster’s Market Square’, which gained several hundred supporters in its first 48 hours alone. To date the petition has over 1700 supporters.

The council however deemed this online petition as an unsuitable format. Smith, with help from Cherry Canovan, another member of staff at the university, created a paper version in response to the council’s lack of recognition of the original campaign. The two staff members were given one week by the council to get at least 200 signatures and within 2 days they reached this target.

As a direct result of this new petition the decision on the future of the trees, which was due to be made on Tuesday Week 12, has been postponed. A debate will now take place at a full council meeting at Morecambe Town Hall on Wednesday Week 14 at 6pm.

Some of those against the removal of the trees have questioned the basis of the Council’s argument, that of aphid secretion. Alternatively they claim that unsuitable paving stones are the real cause of the slippery surfaces. Such claims have been met with the support of the city mayor, Jon Barry.

On Saturday Week 11 a number of people took part in a public protest, ‘Save The Lancaster Limes’, on Market Square, with one protester even chaining herself to one of the threatened trees. This demonstrates how important the trees are to some of the residents of Lancaster calling into question whether environmental sustainability or public safety, both of which are important, should come first.

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