proposed loss of 21 mature trees, two of them subject to the Tree
Preservation Order, represents one third of tree cover in the churchyard
and would have an adverse effect on St. Georges Conservation Area, of
which the church and churchyard are the central features. An
ever-changing perception of enclosure is all important to the changing
views as one walks through the conservation area, and the loss of so
many trees in the churchyard would have a very damaging effect on this,
creating an open space where one had not existed before.
are informed that seven of these trees pose a threat to the church. But
how? Trees posing a threat to the church were removed only three years
ago. Planning consent for application 20121485 was granted on 12th
December 2012. This was for the removal of 13 trees threatening to the
church, largely by virtue of leaf fall blocking gutters and drains.
Works to an additional 51 trees were undertaken at the same time. No
mention was made of the further seven trees now cited as “threatening”
the church. Why? In what way are they threatening? Press statements
released repeatedly refer to the churchyard existing as “gloomy” and
“oppressive”. No justification is given for such inaccurate and biased
loss of trees would also have an extremely adverse effect on local
biodiversity and is therefore counter to the Leicester City Council
Biodiversity Action Plan. Trees provide a natural habitat for a wide
range of plants and animals. Along with Castle Gardens, ancient
churchyards such as St. Georges are the only such environments in
Leicester City Centre and there could be a loss of habitat for mammal,
insect and bird populations with the adoption of any proposals involving
unacceptable tree loss. Rather than tree loss Leicester City Council
should be working towards the enhancement of such City Centre wooded
environments, as they are committed to by their Biodiversity Action
Plan. There is a sad tendency for urban designers to treat trees as
inconveniently placed items of street furniture that can be removed at
will. They are not. Trees are living things and they support living
things in a complex interdependence that is also vital for our own
the recent controversy over loss of trees at De Montfort Hall, City
Councillors committed themselves to a ‘Green Space Protocol’. The
proposals at St. George’s Churchyard make no reference to this
commitment. This is only the latest example at the churchyard where
Councillors have said one thing but are doing another.
concerns over St. George’s Churchyard arise from how to deal with
existing anti-social behaviour. The area is rundown and with serious
problems. As a result, people find it has a slightly menacing
atmosphere, with street drinking and drug abuse. Muggings are not
uncommon and it is has therefore become a complete no-go area at night.
the introduction of improved lighting and new pathway surfaces are
welcome, by themselves they will do nothing to decrease anti-social
behaviour. Neither will removing selected trees. Indeed, without gates
the otherwise excellent provision of benches and flowerbeds will only
exacerbate the problem.
not night time closure be the answer, as is the case with Castle
Gardens? Castle Gardens provide an interesting contrast with St.
George’s Churchyard as it is. They are an inviting public open space,
with many mature trees, beautiful flower beds and planting schemes. They
also offer an attractive series of short-cuts. A new entrance places
them within a two-minute walk of Jubilee Square and only three minutes
from the top of High Street. Although there are five entrances to Castle
Gardens all this is achieved with the expedience of night time closure.
Could not the same be applied to St. George’s Churchyard, also by means
of night time closure? It currently has only three entrances, with a
fourth proposed to the LCB Depot. There could be five with a through
path from the eastern corner on St. George Street to the west end of the
church and the LCB Depot and Orton Square, routed to the north of the
building. A connexion from this could link south to Church Street. By
these means St. Georges Churchyard could therefore develop as an
extremely attractive series of daytime pedestrian routes across the
Culture Quarter and between Curve, London Road and the railway station.
there is also nothing specific on the Church Street or St. George
Street entrances. Current unauthorised car parking on the pathway from
the Church Street entrance would be also be dealt with by proper fencing
and by gates, also closed at night.
Having given us two options in August 2016, on the afternoon of 13th
October 2016, the Council made the results of this consultation survey
public. They had opted for 21 trees to be removed. There were 287
responses to the consultation exercise, 143 (49.8%) of them in favour of
option No.1. 95 (33.1%) in favour of option No.2 and 49 (17.1%) in
favour of neither. The results were therefore totally inconclusive.
67.3% didn’t like option 1 and 84% didn’t like option 2.
5.30 pm on the same afternoon they took the results to a meeting of the
Economic Development, Transport and Tourism Scrutiny Commission. It was
immediately pointed out by Councillor Kitterick, who is a councillor
for Castle Ward and a member of the Commission, that the Council
Executive appeared to have made up their minds in advance. He also made
the valid point that simply cutting trees down was not going to counter
the anti-social behaviour that is such a feature of the churchyard.
After further discussion:
was therefore considered that the proposal to remove trees at St
Georges Churchyard should proceed with caution and that a more selective
approach be undertaken with each tree being individually marked for
further consideration. It was suggested that the likely impact of their
proposed removal could then be better assessed on site.”
Waddington reiterated her comments that no decision had been taken and
confirmed that a meeting could be convened to allow for the potential
impact to be seen on site and reported to the Executive prior to further
any of this has taken place it has been in secret and Leicester Civic
Society knows nothing of it. The current planning application, eleven
months later makes no reference to this, and the application simply
refers to loss of the 21 trees originally proposed. This is the second
instance of Councillors saying one thing and doing another.