Trees saved after Kettering cultural hub plans spark second petition
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A Kettering councillor has moved to calm fears that several trees would be chopped down to make way for a £3.9m cultural quarter extension project.
The GLam (The Gallery, Library and Museum) project, approved by Kettering Council's planning committee, will see an extension to the Alfred East Art Gallery, Kettering Library and the Manor House Museum.
Last week a petition was launched to save the Blitz Tearooms and Jazz Lounge, after plans showed the planned revamp of the coach house home of the Blitz café
In response to the planning approval another online petition had been launched to save trees on the proposed site from the chop after they were earmarked for removal as part of the scheme and a Facebook group was set up to voice concerns.
But Cllr Scott Edwards, who spoke at the planning meeting and had shared his concerns regarding the loss of the trees, has put out a statement in response to the petition to reassure concerned residents.
He said: "The council recognises the value of the Manor House Gardens, the urban green space is a unique and cherished part of our town centre.
"Whilst the original plans identified a number of trees being removed, we have sought, with the support of the architects and contractors, to ensure that any impact to the existing landscape be limited, and can confirm that we envisage now keeping all trees with the exception of a proposed two trees to be removed, and one resited, and these are being removed to improve access and essential to the works being undertaken.
"We have also asked our architects to prepare a new landscaping proposal incorporating these changes. This landscape plan will be sympathetic to the existing surrounding and looks to celebrate and enhance the natural features of the park.
"This plan will also look to highlight the improved public access to the site from the car park and incorporate enhanced planting of both trees and associated landscaping, which we are sure will be well received and will add to the features of this site.
"Our own teams both in this site and around the town centre have, and do receive continual praise for the standards of these areas both in terms of planting arrangements and flowers arrangements, and we are equally adamant that we protect and enhance these areas only."
It is believed that the 18-metre-high Scots Pine to the east side of the gallery will be felled to make way for the extension.
More than ten trees were marked with red paint indicating potential removal.
A spokesman for Kettering Green Party said: "Kettering Green Party are very pleased to see the improvement and expansion of the art gallery and library project and even more happy to see the startling effect people power has had on the council's decision.
"We look forward to the revised landscaping plans from the architects and contractors for the area. We do not condone the removal of healthy and mature trees, but for Kettering Council to listen to the people and save the majority of the trees is to be commended.
"Mature trees sequester much more carbon than new trees, as well as supporting wildlife, absorbing air pollution, and improving our mental well-being.
"The council grounds team do a fantastic job planting new street trees. Kettering Council declared a Climate Emergency back in 2019, so chopping down mature and healthy trees does not fit with this declaration.
"Every tree counts in the race to limit the effects of climate breakdown, so we are glad the council has chosen to listen to the people and save as many of these trees as possible to bring public support back on board for what will be a brilliant addition to the cultural quarter in Kettering."
The GLaM project secured funding from the Getting Building Fund, which is being administered by SEMLEP, with match funding from Kettering Council and Northamptonshire County Council.
Part of the extended gallery and library building will expand the British Library led Business & IP Centre Northamptonshire, that provides entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) free access to a wide range of support.
The group Save Kettering’s Heritage Quarter’s Trees was formed in response to the plans to extend the Art Gallery and Library.
Group founder Amanda Preston said: "The people of Kettering have stood up and made themselves heard. The library and art gallery in Kettering’s Heritage Quarter are very dear to peoples’ hearts and many were outraged by the plans to fell fifteen trees in the adjacent gardens.
"I’m delighted that KBC have listened to us and revised their plans. As these plans have not yet been published we haven’t had a chance to comment, but I’m hoping to liaise with Rochelle Mathieson who is in charge of the project.
"I would personally like to thank Jack Preston, Cheryl Everett-Dunmore, Peter Everett, Kate O’Keefe and the people of Kettering.for their help, and Dez Dell for his advice."
Dez Dell said: "The GLaM project will be a fantastic boost to our cultural quarter so the fact the council have listened to residents and amended the plans to save most of the trees is a brilliant result for the people of Kettering and, of course, the trees that have been saved from the chop.
"It really goes to show how people power can effect change, everyone that e-mailed, called and wrote to the council can feel empowered that they made this happen. This can now be the celebration of new, much needed and exciting investment in Kettering’s art gallery, library and museum since only two of the healthy trees will be felled instead of the initially planned 15, which should help offset the public uproar and bring support to the expansion."
Kettering resident Mike Baish had visited the site today to see the trees after reading comments on social media.
He said: "I support the plan wholeheartedly because it's good for the town to have an exhibition space and somewhere for events."
Kettering Council has been contacted for a comment.