As he drives in state from his Broomy Hill eerie to Hereford United’s ground Captain Sensible, aka the member for Hereford & South Herefordshire, must surely have admired the graceful canopies of the 14 European Lime trees, planted in line astern down the central reservation at the top of Edgar Street. And as he settles into his reserved VIP seat (pre-warmed by Tory chairman Bill Jackson), Jesse Norman might reflect on the fact that by the end of the football season these 50-year-old trees will probably be gone.
Last month, the residents of the 28 houses and flats which run down the west side of Edgar Street woke up to find notices from Herefordshire Council’s Places & Communities Directorate on their doormats. It advised them of plans “to fell and remove 14 European Lime trees in order to facilitate A49 road improvements”. ‘Facilitate road improvements’ being developer-speak for creating a generous entrance for cars/goods deliveries into the Edgar Street Grid’s new Waitrose/John Lewis complex. Nobody can recall this radical road reordering being in the plans which accompanied the original ESG planning application.
When the 21-day consultation period ended on 8 February, 92 letters of objection had been sent in; so many, in fact, that the council official who should be processing them is now on “long-term sick leave”. A public consultation meeting at the Newmarket was abandoned due to lack of support (mysteriously, the letters of notification to Edgar Street residents never got delivered).
Although facing a conservation area (they would screen the views of the Grid’s huge Debenhams store), the Limes aren’t yet protected: the council still has five weeks to issue a tree preservation order to save them. But will it fly in the face of commercial expediency and the prospect of upsetting its development partners – the formidable British Land/McAlpine/Stanhope triumvirate? It certainly showed little resistance when the begging bowl for that £500k came round last October.
In the residents’ camp is ward councillor Liz Chave and the Greens’ Felicity Norman, co-chair of the Hereford Tree Forum which is currently campaigning for more trees to be planted in city streets. Hereford Civic Society, which got a bloody nose for objecting to the bronze bull, is sitting on the fence.
Opposition comes in the form of ‘Brother’ Bretherton, Hereford Futures’ rotund CEO (who certainly can’t afford to offend his two blue chip tenants) and council leader John Jarvis’s enforcer Graham Powell (cabinet member for bikes, bus route closures and pot holes). As yet, no word from Captain Sensible.