Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public







The Policy and Improvement Officer (Alice Nicholson) advised that a petition had been received protesting the proposed removal of memorial trees on Heathfield Road in Frecheville. The petition had received a total of 637 signatures at the time of the meeting and therefore qualified as an ordinary petition.



The Chair advised that, owing to the petition’s similarity with the item being discussed later in the agenda, the decision regarding what action to take as a result of this petition would be deferred until the end of the meeting.



Public Questions



The Committee received the following questions from members of the public:-



a)         Nigel Slack



(i)         Mr Slack highlighted the third recommendation of the Working Group,             which read:

            “We recommend where practicable and affordable that engineering             solutions are adopted to retain as many memorial trees on Western             Road/Mona Avenue, as far as possible.”


            Mr Slack queried what was meant by “practicable and affordable” and who             would decide what is “practicable and affordable”?



(ii)        Why were the only 'technical' consultations with Council or AMEY staff?



In response to the first question, the Chair advised that a written response would be given by the relevant officer Paul Billington, Director of Culture and Environment, and that consideration of practicable and affordable solutions rested with the Cabinet Member as the decision maker.



In response to the second question, Councillor Lisa Barnes, Chairman of the Western Road First World War Memorial Trees Task and Finish Cross Party Working Group, confirmed that technical evidence had not been considered as it was outside of the Working Group’s remit, but would be forwarded to the Cabinet Member for consideration. She clarified that technical experts had been from the Council and not from AMEY.



(b)       Elizabeth Motley




(i)         Ms Motley referred to drawings she submitted to the Working Group which             proposed solutions to the tree roots problem on Western Road, and asked             whether they had been considered by the Working Party and whether they             had been used or acted on?



Councillor Lisa Barnes confirmed that the drawings had been considered alongside other community evidence that had been submitted. She advised that it had not been in the Working Party’s scope to consider technical evidence, which instead was being submitted to the Cabinet Member.



(c)        Arthur Baker




(i)         Mr Baker highlighted the fourth recommendation of the Working Group,             which read:


            “We recommend that the Council look to restoring over time the Western             Road War Memorial to its original concept. This would be subject to             appropriate space, funding, and agreement with residents on Western             Road and Mona Avenue.”


            Mr Baker queried what was meant by “original concept”?



(ii)        Mr Baker criticised the Working Group’s engagement with residents, and             referred to a leaflet that had been circulated by the Council which did not             mention the word ‘tree’.



In response to the first question, Councillor Lisa Banes confirmed that the original concept referred to restoring the memorial to the original number of 97 trees, including replanting the lost trees (in consultation with residents), and advised that conversations with the War Memorial Trust regarding potential funding had begun.



Regarding engagement, Councillor Lisa Banes confirmed that she had spoken to residents on 9th March who had raised concerns over the planned process for engagement. In light of this, the Working Group invited residents and community groups to ‘open interview’ style meetings scheduled for a variety of times, and accepted written and emailed representations. This enabled the Group to consult with as many people as possible and accept broader feedback. Councillor Banes confirmed that the word “trees” was absent on the leaflet but emphasised that trees were understood to be an intrinsic part of the memorial, and the leaflet was not meant to diminish their significance.



(d)       Alan Story




(i)         Mr Story made reference to the Working Group’s report that “trees are part             of the memorial but not necessarily those specific trees”. He advised that             the trees had originally been paid for by the public with the Council now the      guardian and steward of them, and questioned why the trees were being             replaced and how many would be cut down.



(ii)        Mr Story asked whether the War Memorial Trust had expressed an opinion             regarding tree-replacement.



Councillor Lisa Banes acknowledged that this was a highly emotive topic and it was appreciated that residents had questions that this Working Group had been unable to consider. She highlighted the third recommendation, which advocated the retention of as many trees as possible, and advised that this was as far as the Group could go without impinging on the remit of the Independent Tree Panel. With regards to the War Memorial Trust she noted that, as potential funders, they were obligated to remain impartial.



(e)       Councillor Craig Gamble Pugh




(i)         Councillor Gamble Pugh advised that he had put together a detailed             submission to the Working Group after speaking to a large percentage of             local residents and asked whether it had been considered.



(ii)        He stated that, on a walkabout at the site, AMEY officers had advised they             wanted to take down most of the trees, which would go against the wishes             of many local residents and therefore wouldn’t be accepted.



(iii)       The Councillor asked whether the Working Group were aware of traffic             schemes that were being proposed for the area which might be able to             incorporate the memorial trees?




Councillor Banes confirmed that Councillor Gamble Pugh’s submission had been considered by the Group alongside community representations, and advised that AMEY had not been consulted or asked to give evidence to the Working Group. She suggested that details of the traffic schemes should be referred to the Cabinet Member for consideration alongside other technical evidence.



(f)        Reuben Fowles




(i)         Mr Fowles queried the species of tree that would be replanted.



The Chair advised that a written response would be given by the relevant officer.



(g)       Marie Miller



(i)         Ms Miller queried the Council’s lack of maintenance, citing a recent incident          of trees being tarmacked to an extreme degree.



Councillor Lisa Banes advised that tarmacking had been carried out in the past as a temporary measure while exploration work was done on roots but, as this had not been done recently to her knowledge, the Chair advised that this would be referred to officers for investigation and a written response would be given.



(h)       Brian Mosley




(i)         Mr Mosley spoke of his positive experience with the Working Group, but             raised his concern over the wording of the recommendations and sought             confirmation  of whether this Committee would be pursuing the matter and             following-up outside of this exercise.


(ii)        Referencing residents’ desire to retain mature trees, Mr Mosley asked that,             where replacements must be made, that saplings not be used.



Councillor Banes agreed that ensuring this exercise was followed up with ongoing care and a proactive maintenance plan was essential, and this was highlighted in the report at recommendation two. With regard to the second question, Councillor Banes replied that any replacement trees would be older than saplings but confirmed that detail would be provided in a written response by the relevant officer.