Words: John Baron
Council chiefs have put plans to plant more than 6,000 trees in Armley Park on hold following concerns over a lack of consultation with the community.
Parks staff had started planting trees this morning but this was stopped following concerns by the Friends of Armley Park group, who said there had been no proper consultation by the council.
They also said the volume of trees would create a ‘forest’ in Armley Park and “significantly” reduce the recreational areas and green open spaces, threatening popular annual community events like the annual dog show and Futsala for young footballers.
Along with West Yorkshire Police, The Friends also raised concerns over safety and increased anti-social behaviour in the park. A petition to delay the planting has received more than 250 signatures.
Cat Hyde, of Friends of Armley Park, welcomed the council pausing the process. She said the proposals would ‘alter our park forever’ and added:
“We had been aware of planting but not to the extent proposed. We are angry that Armley Park will become a forest without community consultation.
“As committed environmentalists, we are not opposed to trees, we are opposed to them being planted in the wrong place. We need them for future generations, but we also need green and open spaces. This is particularly important in inner city Armley, an area where most residents do not have a garden – the park is our garden.
“We will be working with Leeds City Council to ensure trees can be planted whilst retaining the safety and use of the park for all Armley residents.”
It’s understood Saturday’s socially distanced silent protest against the proposals will now not go ahead.
Cllr Alice Smart (Lab, Armley) told West Leeds Dispatch that the planting had been put on hold and that a consultation with the Friends of Armley Park will take place before any trees are planted. She added:
“Armley has one of the lowest percentages of tree coverage in Leeds. Planting more trees through the Woodland Creation scheme will help address the climate emergency.
“The Armley councillors want to protect play and recreational spaces in Armley Park and make sure as many people as possible can enjoy spending time in our wonderful park.
“We still want to see more trees planted in Armley but other areas of the ward will be considered for tree planting to make sure the most suitable locations are being used.”
In a statement, a Leeds City Council spokesperson said:
“The Big Leeds Climate Conversation consultation showed wide support towards a number of proposals to create green spaces and encourage wildlife across the city, including a volunteer tree planting scheme and planting more wildlife-friendly species in our parks, verges and flower beds. Since then, the Council’s Parks and Countryside service have been working with councillors across Leeds to establish tree planting in every ward across the city.
“The Armley woodland planting scheme has been planned around the new playground, which the Friends of Armley Park are working with the council to deliver. Leeds City Council has consulted with Friends of Armley Park and Armley ward councillors to ensure a balance of open recreation space, playgrounds and woodland areas to maintain Armley Park as a public space that everyone can enjoy.”
WLD reported last week how tree planting was due to be carried out at the bottom of Acres Hall Avenue in Pudsey, Chatsworth Recreation Ground, Farfield Recreation Ground in Farsley, Keldholme Close in Rodley and Roker Recreation Ground in Pudsey.
UPDATE: This article was updated at 5.27pm to confirm that the Saturday protest will now NOT go ahead as originally planned due to police advice.