A VIGIL is to be staged in Liverpool’s Victoria Street car park over the impending axe of three dozen trees to make way for a multistorey car park.
Green campaigners have protested about the loss of mature trees in the city centre, following recent reports which have cited their important role in the battle against air pollution caused by traffic.
As if the city centre isn’t already a virtual tree-free zone, a team arrived in Church Street yesterday to remove the 40ft Christmas tree, several days ahead of twelfth night - flouting the sensibilities of the superstitious.
The new plans will see one of the last collections of trees axed to make way for more cars, replacing a tree-lined surface car park in Victoria Street.
The impending chainsaw massacre, revealed by Liverpool Confidential last spring, comes just months after a World Health Organisation report warned dozens of British cities, including Liverpool, were breaching air pollution limits leading to thousands of premature deaths.
Liverpool’s Green Party councillors and campaigners plan to hold a demonstration and vigil at the car park site from 8.30am next Tuesday (January 10), ahead of a planning committee meeting expected to rubber stamp the plan.
The Greens say the proposals for Victoria Street will lead to increased air pollution in the city centre.
“There are so many reasons why this plan should be rejected, I really can't understand how the council is hoping to go ahead with it," said Cllr Tom Crone, leader of the Green Party group which is dwarfed by Labour on the city council.
The Christmas tree in Church Street gets taken down this week, long before the traditional twelfth night
He claimed the report by council planning officers failed to answer the objections he and party colleagues put forward, adding: “that is unacceptable when such a key decision is to be taken which will have a massive effect on the city centre”.
The five-storey car park proposed on the site would mean 300 more car parking spaces.
The plan was put forward by regeneration supremo Cllr Malcolm Kennedy - the cabinet member for climate change.
Last March he estimated the cost of building the multi-storey (in sympathy with the conservation character of the area) will be between £4.5m and £5.5m.
“The design will be respectful to the character of the conservation area and the heritage and re-provision of any lost trees will be a requirement of the project. The intention is for the city council to self fund the design and build of the multi-storey car park and then manage and maintain the development in house once open,” he declared at the time.
Cllr Crone, who is also the Green Party candidate for Liverpool City Region metro mayor, added: “I am completely opposed to this proposal and am seeking a review of the way it has been dealt with in the Planning Officer's report. It looks as though a number of important considerations have been overlooked."
He added: "I want to know whether the issues of increased air pollution, appropriate support for sustainable transport, damage to heritage and the loss of mature trees have been given due consideration; none of that is clear at present. We risk losing an attractive, open space to a carbuncle which will destroy the feel of this area,” he added.
The car park plan is being recommended for approval by council planning officers who say other trees will be planted in the area to compensate for the loss of the Victoria Street trees.
Liverpool has been declared an “Air Quality Management Area” in a bid to tackle high levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions, coming mainly from diesel vehicles.
Air pollution is blamed for the premature deaths of hundreds of people every year in Liverpool, a city already suffering from higher than average respiratory illnesses.
The existing ground-level car park, complete with trees, earns its keep for the council, generating an income of around £400,000.
Once the multi-storey is built, operating income from parking will not be that much more after interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the scheme. It will be the 2020s before it starts to earn significant money.
Further reading: Revealed: Tree-lined Victoria Street car park flattened for multi-storey