Lancaster’s “slippery” new paving stones are threatening the future of much loved trees in the city’s central square.
According to Lancaster Mayor Coun Jon Barry, the new surface is more slippery than it should be and in hindsight it would have been better to use a different material.
Coun Barry’s claims come as more than 900 people signed a petition on Change.org to save the seven Lime trees in Market Square from being chopped down.
Lancaster City Council say the paving stones, laid in 2014, are the same as those used in Trafalgar Square, and the slipperiness of the surface is down to insects dropping a sticky liquid known as honeydew on the ground after feeding on the leaf sap of the trees.
But residents argue that the whole surface is slippery in wet weather anyway, and there is no proper justification for chopping down the 40-year-old trees.
A report prepared by Mark Davies, the city council’s chief environmental officer, is asking councillors to agree to cut down the trees at a cabinet meeting on January 19 at Lancaster Town Hall.
Coun Barry said: “I think the surface is more slippery than it should be and in hindsight it would have been better to have used another material.
“Having said that, I don’t think that this justifies removal of the trees. Either they need to clean the surfacing – and I’m sure that it could done much more cheaply than stated in the report – or they need to look at treating the slabs to make them less slippery.
“These trees add character and beauty to Market Square.”
According to a council report, the cost of making the area safe stacks up to around £10,000 a year, at a time when “resources available to the council are reducing at an unprecedented rate”.
Lancaster resident Cherry Canovan said: “I think one of the best things about Lancaster is the beautiful mature trees in the city centre.
“Add to this the fact that the surface is slippery in other areas away from the trees, and the fact that the council is going against its own tree policy, and the proposal just seems ridiculous.”
Lancaster City Council’s Tree Preservation Officer has also opposed the proposal. Councillors decided not to get rid of the trees when they voted in favour of the new surfacing in 2009.
A protest is due to take place in Market Square on Saturday morning, January 16.
The petition, which was written by Lancaster resident Ian Smith, reads: “We call on the council to rule out removing the trees and to find alternative solutions to this problem.”
The council is asking councillors to approve removal of the trees with a view to planting seven new trees somewhere else, as well as considering whether in future to provide replacement trees in planters in Market Square.
The city council added: “Secretions from the lime trees and the consequent problems obviously occur irrespective of the surface underneath the tree.
“These trees caused problems for cleansing and slippiness/stickiness prior to the new surface as well.
“The old surface was darker and weathered so the problem wasn’t as noticeable.
“We also have other areas of the district where we get similar problems caused by lime trees.
“Footfall in these areas isn’t as great as the city centre so it is less of an issue. But we still have to jet wash some of these areas to reduce slippiness.
“The original designs for market square did suggest the use of more suitable tree species. Understandably the council took the view at that time that it would like to try and retain the trees as far as practically possible.
“Irrespective of the surface if the trees remain the problem will continue.
“The report makes clear this is an issue that needs addressing by either removing the lime trees or at least mitigating by undertaking additional jet washing and pruning.
“This option though only addresses the symptoms and will require additional resources at a time when the government are massively reducing council budgets.”