Regarding Item 89.9: Residents have been concerned about the loss of trees in Elms Field and the loss of the children’s Play Ground. Can the Executive Member responsible please let us know what the position regarding this will be and future planting?
Just as the Chairman has said I am here tonight representing the Council in their role as developer and can only comment from this perspective.
A bigger and better children’s play area, not a loss, is at the heart of the new proposals.
Although the existing play area attracts local children and families the offer is limited. New local playgrounds such as the one at Dinton Pastures, and at the Finchampstead Baptist Centre in Gorse Ride, have shown what can be achieved with improved modern equipment and design.
We believe the play area at Elms Field could become just as great a space and, should we secure planning consent this spring, will be working with local families and children on creating exciting designs for the new space; which is about 40% bigger than the area currently used for play equipment in the existing park.
On trees we have worked carefully with professional arboriculturalists and other interested parties throughout the process to identify the best solution for retaining as many of the trees as possible and this can be seen within the new designs which include the retention of many of the best specimen trees such as the willow to the south, the large elm in the centre of the play area and two of the best trees next to Virgin Active. We are also retaining the existing avenue of trees which currently line either side of Elms Road and, with the shift of the road to the far side of the park, will now be located within the open space. Also the old hedge along Wellington Road will be almost entirely retained.
The majority of the trees that are being removed are of relatively poor quality or have a limited life span. We have included proposals for replacement planting of semi mature trees across the scheme to mitigate those we are losing, concentrating our proposals on improved quality and biodiversity to support local wildlife and use of native species.
A large number of trees seen as being ‘within the park’ actually sit outside of the park boundaries and we have worked carefully on the designs to ensure they are not impacted on and proper mitigation practices, such as root boundary distances, have been taken into account in the proposals. In this we have been helped by the District Veteran Tree Association whose input has been invaluable as it was when we worked to find sites across the Borough for 60 commemorative oak trees planted for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
We will continue to consult and work to provide the best possible tree and landscape environment in Elms Field.
In respect of the playground could you please confirm that locally interested groups will also be involved?
Yes as I said we are planning that children and families will be involved in getting to the detail of it and we will bring forward ideas that have worked in other places but there will still be choices. You may recall that when we replace some of the equipment in some of the play areas in Norreys ward we did just that and it was very successful and people’s ideas did change the plans that we had.