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Anger as Wickes plans to fell 14 trees at pollution hotspot in Wincheap, Canterbury

A DIY chain wants to rip out 14 mature trees in one of the most polluted areas of Canterbury in a move branded "totally unnecessary" by opponents.

Hardware firm Wickes - which has agreed to move into the former Homebase unit in Wincheap - wants to cut down the long-standing London Planes lining Cow Lane.

The trees in summertime along Cow Lane
The trees in summertime along Cow Lane

Felling on the Canterbury City Council-owned site would open up the area and make the superstore more visible from the road.

But the proposals - submitted to the authority for approval - have sparked an angry response from those wanting to keep Canterbury's nature intact.

Wincheap is classed by the council as "an area of concern" for pollution and the heavily congested suburb is deemed the "worst" zone in the district for levels of harmful nitrogen oxide emissions.

Concerned residents - of which more than 80 have lodged formal objections - have therefore highlighted the well-known benefits of trees absorbing toxic chemicals and tackling greenhouse gases.

Members of the city's Green Party say the move could set a "worrying precedent".

The trees have recently been drastically cut back by the council
The trees have recently been drastically cut back by the council

A statement from the party says: "The loss of 14 trees in this heavily polluted area will be hugely detrimental with significant environmental consequences, negatively affecting local biodiversity, with air quality, carbon targets and the overall appearance of this already ugly industrial site.

"Granting permission may also set a worrying precedent for similar developments, rendering the council's climate emergency declaration meaningless."

Those thoughts are echoed by resident Hugh Raggett, who said: "There can be no commercial justification that will make it worth sacrificing so many living trees that present no danger and have no disease but are essential to keep nature supported at this fragile time."

In the application, Wickes offers no reasoning as to why it wants to remove the trees, which have recently been pollarded by the city council "to reduce canopy size and improve the shape of the canopy", given they posed a potential obstruction to the road.

Council spokesman Rob Davies added: "It will take a while before regrowth establishes, but this will happen as we move into summer and the trees will be bushier as a result. Similar work will be needed in five to 10 years' time as part of normal tree management."

Plans showing how the new Wickes store would look
Plans showing how the new Wickes store would look

Wickes - which also wants to install a customer entrance lobby and covered trolley park - was contacted for comment, but did not respond.

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