Article published: Friday, February 1st 2013
Manchester City Council’s plans to fell what protesters claim could be up to 400 trees in Alexandra Park have been challenged by local residents since they were unveiled in December 2012. Despite this, felling went ahead before being halted this week by local opponents who have occupied the park to make themselves heard.
The peaceful protest at 1pm tomorrow Saturday 2 February is part of increasing opposition to the plans. Work on the site has had to be halted after campaigners scaled the trees and erected aerial platforms built on branches, prompting the police to be called in.
In a blog commenting on the sit in, campaign group Save Alexandra Park Trees said, “Meanwhile media coverage builds, the protesters camping in the park hold out with food parcels donated by well-wishers, and 2,580 people sign the petition.”
Work began on Monday, marking the start of a £4.5 million project including £2.2m in council funding intended to restore the park to its former Victorian glory. The scheme is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Manchester City Council (MCC) and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).
Plans include the restoration of the pavilion, footpaths, a cricket oval, a historic water fountain, six tennis courts from the LTA and the reintroduction of “historic geometric planting beds”, shrubs and fruit trees.
Lack of consultation
Despite protesters’ claims that 400 trees could be chopped down, the council insist that the number to be felled is closer to 260.
Some local campaigners allege the tree felling plans were held back from public knowledge in a deliberate attempt to deceive. “We were excluded from expressing our views in the development stages of the plans”, said one. “We were only told the extent of the tree cull on 1 December at the council open day and by that time it was too late.
“The amount of trees to be felled isn’t clear on the official diagram either. Some of the trees to be felled are included in the key rather than being clearly marked.”
One local expressed frustration at what they claimed was an all-to familiar consultation process. “As usual with the council, the consultation was not continuous or sustained. It might have been legal, but it was not ethically sound.”
Garden designer Chris Sedham has been reported in environmentalist publication Manchester Climate Monthly as offering an alternative perspective on the tree felling, pointing out that “biodiversity is crucial and far bigger and more important than just about having trees.”
Sedman argued, “We need to act now to protect the park for future generations… The park at the moment is very limited in the range of trees/shrubs/plants used and is relatively dead & sterile in biodiversity terms for such a large wooded area”.
Despite portrayals of the protesters as against any development of the park and against any tree felling, some are keen to see improvements. “We want our opinions on our local park to be taken into account and for a discussion to be had”, said one. “Some trees may have to go, but it is the sheer scale of the destruction that is the problem for me.”
Ian Brewer from Save Alexander Park Trees added, “Most of us are in full favour of project, except the vast extent of the tree felling.”
One local raised quentions as to whether the council are concerned with local needs or merely keen to spend the lottery funding. “There are 12 public tennis courts within 1.5 miles of the park, making the plans for six here completely unnecessary and wasteful. Why can’t they be built somewhere that does not require the destruction of a nature reserve?”
The Council’s priorities in spending was also raised as an issue. “The council should be focusing on making the sports facilities this city already has more accessible to people without the money or equipment to use them,” they said, rather than “spending huge sums on felling trees and building more courts that won’t get used.”
The protest will begin at 1pm Saturday 2 February by the gate on the Alexandra Rd South /Claremont Rd corner. See http://
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