Work has well and truly started at Newton Bar.
We received a message via Facebook from a neighbour of the site, who said “…It looks like they’ve already cut far deeper into the existing tree than the plans had suggested. We know these home many squirrels and potentially two foxes.”
We received another message via WhatsApp from another concerned neighbour who said “I’ve seen the carnage at Newton Bar. They cut down every SINGLE tree!!! I’m so livid I can’t even tell you… …liars and charlatans every one of them.”
So we obviously had to go and have a look on Saturday afternoon…
Compare the video with this photo of the stand of birch trees a few weeks ago in the autumn
This is the view up through the site in the autumn… With the yellow line marking the edge of construction clearly visible. Trees to the left of this line should have been retained. You can see from the video below the photo that we expected more trees to be retained at the top of the bank!
So after walking around the outside of the site, we arrived at the top where almost everything has been removed. We were again led to believe that a good proportion of the trees at the top of the site would be retained. The reality is somewhat different…
Stuart, who visited the site, and took many more pictures and videos which can be seen here (https://justtransitionwakefield.org.uk/resources/videos/) was clearly shocked and angered by what he saw. This is what he said after he had walked back home and had time to reflect.
I know any tree clearance looks devastating, but this is far worse than we expected, based on what we were told by officers and councillors when we visited the site. We spent an hour and a half in heavy rain walking the site, so that it could be explained where the road would go, which trees were to be felled and which retained. We were upset at the time, but we remembered the detail because it mattered.
I cannot put my feelings of anger at the deliberate and systematic destruction, and my sense of betrayal, into words polite enough to print. Trees that had been highlighted to be retained are now gone. Not one tree has been relocated. There was a huge gap in the fence, so I have walked the site to confirm this. Two of us visited the site at the start of the week and spoke to the Hinko project manager. It is clear that we were lied to. This is the betrayal.
What I think I find most galling is that despite all of the publicity, all of the public concern about the destruction of nature during a global ecological emergency, all of the fine words about the climate emergency and the need to reduce traffic – it counts for nothing. We have to question whether we can trust the council to deliver on its promises, or to hold its contractors to account.
We are lodging a Freedom of Information request to see the plans that Hinko should be working to. We need to know if they have over-reached and breached their contracted terms, or if we were lied to.
If this happens with a council with respectable environmental credentials, then God help people living in other areas with councils that are not even trying!
Stuart said afterwards that he hoped that the “Desolation of Newton Bar” would be the last monument to 20th century thinking in the Wakefield District. That the public shaming and outrage would focus minds into connecting policy with practice – starting with the community woodland scheduled for destruction on City Fields at Park Lodge Lane. He left musing whether we could create an art installation at Newton Bar as a lasting reminder to all who pass through this historical anachronism…