A vigil is to be staged in Liverpool’s Victoria Street car park over the impending axe of three dozen trees to make way for a multistorey car park.
Green campaigners have protested about the loss of mature trees in the city centre, following recent reports which have cited their important role in the battle against air pollution caused by traffic.
The new plans will see one of the last collections of trees axed to make way for more cars, replacing a tree-lined surface car park in Victoria Street.
The impending work comes just months after a World Health Organisation report warned dozens of British cities, including Liverpool, were breaching air pollution limits leading to thousands of premature deaths.
Liverpool’s Green Party councillors and campaigners plan to hold a demonstration and vigil at the car park site from 8.30am next Tuesday (January 10), ahead of a planning committee meeting expected to rubber stamp the plan.
The Greens say the proposals for Victoria Street will lead to increased air pollution in the city centre.
Cllr Tom Crone, leader of the Green Party group said: “There are so many reasons why this plan should be rejected, I really can’t understand how the council is hoping to go ahead with it.”
He claimed the report by council planning officers failed to answer the objections he and party colleagues put forward, adding: “that is unacceptable when such a key decision is to be taken which will have a massive effect on the city centre”.
The five-storey car park proposed on the site would mean 300 more car parking spaces.
The plan was put forward by regeneration supremo Cllr Malcolm Kennedy – the cabinet member for climate change.
Last March he estimated the cost of building the multi-storey (in sympathy with the conservation character of the area) will be between £4.5m and £5.5m.
“The design will be respectful to the character of the conservation area and the heritage and re-provision of any lost trees will be a requirement of the project. The intention is for the city council to self-fund the design and build of the multi-storey car park and then manage and maintain the development in house once open,” he declared at the time.
Cllr Crone, who is also the Green Party candidate for Liverpool City Region metro mayor, added: “I am completely opposed to this proposal and am seeking a review of the way it has been dealt with in the Planning Officer’s report. It looks as though a number of important considerations have been overlooked.
“I want to know whether the issues of increased air pollution, appropriate support for sustainable transport, damage to heritage and the loss of mature trees have been given due consideration; none of that is clear at present. We risk losing an attractive, open space to a carbuncle which will destroy the feel of this area,” he added.
The car park plan is being recommended for approval by council planning officers who say other trees will be planted in the area to compensate for the loss of the Victoria Street trees.
Liverpool has been declared an “Air Quality Management Area” in a bid to tackle high levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions, coming mainly from diesel vehicles.
Air pollution is blamed for the premature deaths of hundreds of people every year in Liverpool, a city already suffering from higher than average respiratory illnesses.
The existing ground-level car park, complete with trees reportedly generates an income of around £400,000 for the council.