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Could trees in Canterbury high street still be saved from the axe?

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There is hope a controversial tree-felling plan for Canterbury’s high street could be axed during the next stages of the planning process.

City council bosses want to uproot five long-standing trees at the top of St George’s Street as part of a £1.2 million transformation of the “tired and dated” area into a boulevard-style walkway.

Five trees in the city's high street are earmarked to be chopped down
Five trees in the city's high street are earmarked to be chopped down

The proposals have been ratified via the authority’s own decision-making system. But Kent County Council (KCC) will have the final say on the scheme, as it owns the land.

Full plans for the redesign of the stretch between Superdrug and Metro Bank are yet to be formalised. So there is still the possibility KCC could scupper the regeneration bid when it pores over the details.

The city council is, however, confident it will be able to press ahead at the start of next year - chopping down the trees and booting the market traders out of their pitches.

But Cllr Mel Dawkins, who sits on both councils, claims the environmental team at KCC has suggested it would not recommend the removal of healthy trees. The Labour representative told the Gazette: “I spoke with them and they said at present they are healthy trees.

“Because of that they wouldn’t recommend them to be chopped down.

Cllr Mel Dawkins
Cllr Mel Dawkins

“They haven’t formed an opinion as to whether they’d be opposed to it or not - but they wouldn’t say to get rid of healthy trees.”

The city council has previously shared results of an independent survey which stated how the trees have “outgrown their situation”.

They will be replaced by 14 semi-mature trees, to be planted on either side of the thoroughfare.

In an official statement, KCC says it is still awaiting the submission of the plans in full and therefore has not formed an opinion.

“When our officers review a proposal to remove trees, we look at several factors including the perceived benefits of any future work,” a spokesman said.

The trees are planned to come down next year
The trees are planned to come down next year
The council wants to create a boulevard-style street
The council wants to create a boulevard-style street

“We are aware of Canterbury City Council’s proposal and no formal decision on the trees will be made until we have completed a full review of the plans.

“This review will not be completed until such time as the Canterbury scheme proposals have been formalised.”

Cllr Dawkins last week put forward a motion calling for a new and up-to-date report on the scheme to be compiled.

The motion, heard at a full city council meeting on Thursday, will be discussed at a future cabinet meeting.

Cllr Dawkins hopes a new report will allow the authority to reassess its position and redraw the plans to incorporate the existing trees.

The vision for St George's Street in Canterbury
The vision for St George's Street in Canterbury

The St Stephen’s ward representative says she is “optimistic” the trees can be saved.

“It would be foolish of the council to not take into consideration my motion and the 5,000 signatures the petition got,” she said.

“If they weren’t to consider it, they would be blindly going along with it, and ignoring all of the opposition.

“Removing healthy trees is wrong as it goes against the council’s climate emergency.

“It would be an extremely sad and significant day to see the trees chopped down. They are older than all of us and have been there longer than the shops.”

City council spokesman Rob Davies said: “The project is still going ahead as agreed by councillors.

“We have a process to go through with Kent County Council due to St George’s Street being the highway.”

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