New St George's Street plans would see trees retained

St George's Street

Proposals to redesign the refurbishment of St George's Street in a way that would allow the five existing mature trees to remain in place will be considered at forthcoming council committee meetings.

Proposals to redesign the refurbishment of St George's Street in Canterbury in a way that would allow the five existing mature trees to remain in place will be considered at city council committee meetings in the coming weeks.

Councillors on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will discuss the proposals at a meeting on Thursday 16 June and make recommendations to a meeting of the Cabinet on 11 July, which will take the final decision.

The council has had long-held plans to give St George's Street an extensive revamp to replace the tired paving and create a new space for events and other activities. In doing so, it planned to remove the five trees and replace them with 14 new trees in a boulevard style.

However, the plans to remove the trees have been divisive, leading to protests, petitions and notices of motion to the council asking for a rethink. And as St George's Street is classed as the highway, they are owned by Kent County Council, which has expressed concern about their removal.

In the committee report, city council officers suggest a potential new layout that would "still provide a usable events space and retain the five existing trees".

The paving layout would "visually divide the street into two smaller spaces". Proposals are also put forward for new seating around the trees and in other locations in St George's Street, and one new semi-mature tree with underground root cells would be planted near to Marks and Spencer to "create some balance to the street design in the long term".

The report goes on to say street lighting would need to be a "combination of new columns and existing wall mounted units to try to reduce the number of dark areas created by the dense canopies of the existing trees".

And it stresses the proposed layout would sit well alongside other plans for the city centre covered by the Levelling Up Fund bid, in particular around "the use of open spaces, creation of event spaces and wayfinding across the city".

Cabinet member for place, Cllr Barbara Anne Flack, said: "While there seems to be general agreement that St George's Street is desperately in need of a substantial makeover, there has been opposition to the loss of the trees and uncertainty about whether the county council would grant permission for their removal.

"We have therefore taken a fresh look at the entire scheme and developed a set of proposals that allows the trees to not only remain, but also hopefully flourish, and also gives us the chance to deliver the improvements to St George's Street that will enhance the city centre for years to come.

"We look forward to the discussion at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and to receiving their recommendations at Cabinet."

Both the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet meetings start at 7pm in the Guildhall and are open to the public. Anyone who wants to speak on the report can do so at Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and details of how to do this are on the council's website.

The refurbishment of St George's Street is scheduled to begin in January 2023.

Published: 8th June 2022