The eventual felling of ten of the fourteen trees in a dawn raid worthy of the SAS has sparked even greater anger in the city at a small group of cabinet members who do not even live in the city and a wider debate (albeit one sided, with a cabinet refusing to listen) is taking place about the kind of future the population want for the city and county.
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To: Highways Agency
Save Edgar Street Trees - Hereford
Update 14/05/15: We saved three of the 14 trees. Sadly the other 11 were summarily chopped down - the resulting road widening as predicted has done nothing for traffic problems in Hereford.
We call on the Highways Agency and the cabinet of Herefordshire County Council to withdraw current plans to fell fourteen trees in Edgar Street, Hereford to provide an extra lane on an already bottled up road with stoppers at either end. At one end is a huge roundabout with far too many lights, a Tesco store and bus station on it, and the other end is a mini roundabout that effectively is a T junction by any other name. We are calling for proper public consultation.
These trees are fifty years old, and much loved by the public as witness the response on our facebook page, and in bloom at this moment. The proposed replacements are not acceptable by comparison and original trees do not need to be removed!
Trees, apart from aesthetic value, provide the much needed oxygen in an area with heavy traffic, and a necessary barrier to the eyesore facing residents living opposite the concrete jungle and the PUBLIC HAVE NOT BEEN CONSULTED.
A special meeting was convened (as a result of this campaign we are sure) on 9th August, where councillors were called to a meeting with Tim Harbot, West Midlands Director for Network Delivery and Development Directorate of the Highways Agency. He's also Chair of the West Midlands Institution of Civil Engineers. Apparently Jesse Norman MP was going be there too, but is on holiday, so he was being represented by Wendy Richardson, but still NOT A PUBLIC MEETING!
.... and the result? Still unsatisfactory determination to add this pointless lane. One compromise our representative had to force into the minutes was for trees if replaced to be 'like for like.' Not oaks, not 2 metre high limes of a different variety, but European Limes. They are trying to cheat any way they can ... THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES .... .
Why is this important?
Far too many decisions, to our detriment, are being made behind closed doors and it is time the affected public were properly consulted!
At 7 am on Sunday 22nd September a team of contractors (Acorns) arrived in a dawn raid worthy of the SAS, felling 10 of the 14 Lime trees, with a private army of security guards to protect the team. From whom we ask, as no threat had been made. On the surface this appears to be a failed campaign, but in a cautionary note we have to say the remaining 4 would not be standing now if not for this campaign, and the greater success is that it has started a much wider debate about the state of democracy in Herefordshire. 54% of the people being angry or very angry with the behaviour of the council cabinet in a recent Hereford times poll. This is consistent with a poll before the felling where the same percentage were against them being removed.
These trees were in a conservation area and the air on the stretch of road was already being monitored for excessive pollution, indicating there already is a problem .. the addition of an additional lane of traffic revving to get away through the many lights will not improve this situation. Furthermore the light pollution for residents living opposite the service area, and deliveries through the night, with associated noise is not acceptable and will not be mitigated by 6 metre high replacement trees. So, apart from the ecological issues the scheme is ill thought out and will make the traffic issues worse, not better.
Pedestrians are road users too, and, considering this is additionally (whether by accident or design) an add on to the new shopping center, it pays no attention to pedestrian safety in crossing an extra lane of traffic. We proposed more acceptable ideas such as shared space, as in Poynton for example, where traffic is successfully made to pay heed to other road users keeping pleasant space for pedestrian shoppers in the new space! Traffic is kept moving by users showing respect for others and not being bottled up by endless sets of traffic lights.
Surveys consistently show that only approximately12-15% of traffic on A49 through Hereford is 'through' traffic; meaning most of the congestion is locally generated. We need to reduce traffic not add another lane to increase the problem.
Jesse Norman MP (South Herefordshire) responded saying " The HA has consulted with the Council, but not directly with residents; it appears to have complete discretion here since the trees fall within the highway itself (this itself raises a serious issue of democratic accountability). I have pushed the HA to (a) consult directly with local residents on this issue, (b) delay the process pending a fuller review of options, and (c) look much more closely at treating Edgar Street as a street not a motorway, as Mo has urged, with trees used to calm traffic, as well as for their beauty and environmental benefits."
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It soon became apparent we were being given different story by the highways agency and the council. Hence this following video. We waited with this to allow some diplomacy to happen, It didn't.
INFO came to light showing dishonesty, both to the public and the funding authority in the council's application for funding. This following reply to a standardized question in the application form for funding may actually constitute something approaching incompetence, and possibly wilful deceit. The Council were asked, as part of the procedure to secure funding for the scheme at this point on the A49, if the Highways Agency had consulted HEREFORD'S RESIDENTS.
The reply was that the scheme was proposed to the Highways Agency by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, with support from Herefordshire Council and that the Highways Agency had been proactive in liaising with Herefordshire Council for this scheme. Now liaising and consulting are two different things. Marches subsequently wrote a letter denying this ... The application for funding did not ask if the Highways Agency had been liaising with the Council. It asked if the residents of Hereford had been CONSULTED.
The answer is NO.
Tacking on the amendment that a meeting was held on the 9th of August between the Highways Agency and Herefordshire Council etc where 'a' resident of Edgar Street was present is irrelevant to the application and in our opinion designed to deceive the reader into believing consultation had taken place previous to the application, and allocation of funding. It is our belief, based on advice, that the original application for funding for the Edgar Street pinch point is flawed (at best) and should be resubmitted.'
How it will be delivered
It was delivered by email to the Highways Agency nationally, along with cabinet members of Herefordshire County Council. Numerous radio and print media.events have taken place.