December 17, 2017

Plans to fell trees to make ‘gloomy’ city centre churchyard safer criticised

Leicester

Campaigners have been lodging objections to council plans for a £900,000 revamp of a ‘gloomy’ churchyard in Leicester city centre.

Leicester City Council is seeking planning permission to carry out work in the St George’s churchyard in the city’s Cultural Quarter.

Officials want to open up and enhance the space around the Grade II*-listed church to make it a safer and more attractive area, and open it up onto Orton Square opposite Curve.

The scheme has however proved controversial because the council intends to cut down 21 of the mature trees around the church.

Both the Leicester Civic Society and Friends of the Earth have criticised the move.

Civic society chairman Stuart Bailey said such felling was excessive.

He also disputed the council’s assertion that trees near to the Serbian Orthodox church building were damaging it.

He said: “This is not some greedy student developer throwing up unwanted flats.

“It has always been an area that has suffered anti-social behaviour and trying to get more people using it will not stop that.

“They should take the approach they have with Castle Gardens and turn it into a proper urban park that has the gates locked at night.”

Leicester Friends of the Earth spokesman Hannah Wakley said removing the trees would make air pollution from the nearby ring road worse.

She said it would harm the area as a wildlife habitat.

She said: “It is proposed that the 21 mature trees will be replaced by eight saplings.

“Saplings can never replace mature trees, as noted above.

“The suggested replacement species, whilst attractive, with seasonal leaf changes and berries for wildlife value, will be smaller in stature even when they reach maturity and probably rather shorter lived.

“They will not provide the same amount of habitat for wildlife as the mature lime trees currently growing in the churchyard.”

Under the council plans footpaths through the churchyard would be reconstructed and additional lighting columns installed.

“Railings and low walls will also be removed to open up the entrances into the churchyard, and a new decorative gateway into the courtyard of LCB Depot will be created.

“Railings and gates inside the churchyard will be repaired and repainted.

New seating will also be provided.

Lighting will also be installed around the church itself to help make a feature of the building after dark.”

A council spokesman said: “The St George’s churchyard proposals have been subject to detailed public consultation and have now been submitted for planning approval.

“People have until 12 October to comment as part of that formal process.

“All representations received will be carefully considered by the planning and development control committee when they determine the application in due course.”

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