Two huge willow trees have been chopped down near Temple Meads this week with some calling the destruction "criminal", “barbaric" and "shameful". The majestic duo which occupied the southern bank of the Floating Harbour, near Meads Reach Bridge at Temple Quay, was removed yesterday (November 30) to make way for a floating pontoon walkway.
The walkway will provide a shared pedestrian and cycleway between Temple Meads ferry landing and Cattle Market Road, according to the approved planning permission granted by Bristol City Council (BCC) in 2019. Plans state that it will be 450m long and four metres wide, with lighting and a 1.4m tall safety barrier.
Photographer Jeremy Fennell, 68, said of the tree removal: "This is an utterly shameful episode that highlights the fact that Bristol City Council appears to have a very inconsistent attitude to our green areas. This area has very few trees and these particular specimens were a beautiful piece of greenery in an otherwise soulless concrete jungle. Nature and the environment just feel like an inconvenience."
Bristol Tree Forum opposed the initial plans and in a recent Twitter, responding to Bristol 247's footage of the trees' removal, the group wrote: “We tried, but they would not listen.” Its secretary Vassili Papastavrou told Bristol Live: "Once again the citizens of Bristol are shocked by the destruction of trees.
"This case indicates the utter disregard for important trees within the Local Planning Authority and the council itself. The planning application was snuck through with virtually no mention of the trees.
“The title of the application did not mention that trees were to be removed: it was for the construction of a floating pontoon walkway. There was no arboricultural report from the developer (which was the council) no tree officer report from the Local Planning Authority (which was also the council). Just a couple of circles on a drawing.
"All of which made it easy for the council to give permission to itself with a delegated decision and no public scrutiny. Just another ordinary day of tree removal in Bristol.”
Many took to social media to also express their concerns about the city’s green spaces, after little but stumps were left behind. One Twitter user commented: “One of the great things about this city is the number of trees and green spaces but BCC/developers seem determined to destroy it."
“Barbaric behaviour, unthinking. That tree was one of the most beautiful things in the area," added another. While one person said: “A healthy mature tree? That is criminal."
A spokesperson for Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said: “Proposals for a harbour walkway were put forward by the previous administration to support development of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. These proposals were subsequently granted for planning permission in December 2015.
"A condition of the sale of the sorting office land to the University of Bristol in 2017 was that the construction of the walkway would be delivered. Planning permission was sought again in 2019 with support of local campaign groups when the original permission lapsed. We are disappointed about the loss of these trees but are bound by the sale agreement to ensure greater cycling and walking access.”
In council officers' report recommending approval of the application, the removal of the trees was acknowledged but the planting of replacement trees was seen as sufficient justification. The council's report noted: "The plans include the removal of two trees, although it was previously considered that the levels of replacement planting would more than compensate for the loss of the trees.
"Subject to a condition requiring details of the planting it is considered that the proposal is acceptable on these grounds." One of the conditions of approval added: "No development shall commence until a landscaping plan for the approved walkway, including replacement tree planting and a phasing plan for planting, have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority."
A 'planting plan' document submitted with the application circled the two willow trees that were to be removed, but stated that a group of alders and an ash tree would be retained as would another group of willows that would be 'crown lifted and retained'. The drawings also showed that clumps of shrubs would be planted to create a new habitat for nesting birds.
The trees are located just a stone's throw away from an empty site next to Temple Meads station with proposed development plans for 100 new flats and two hotels. There are also plans for a new shop, cafe, bar and restaurants.
Only 20 of the 100 new homes will be classed as ‘affordable’ - the rest will be up for rent on the open market. The developer has said the council's removal of the trees is not linked to their scheme.
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