NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY PLANS FOR A £40 MILLION SPORTS VILLAGE REJECTED

On Wednesday, 21 January 2015, BBC TV's East Midlands Today programme reported that Nottingham City Council has rejected plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment by Nottingham University which would have resulted in the felling of three veteran oak trees.

Alex Britton, in the Nottingham Post has also reported on the decision ...

The University of Nottingham has accused Nottingham City Council of 'hypocrisy' after plans for a £40 million sports village were halted because of concerns over felling three oak trees.

Councillors voted seven to six against the plans at a committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The plans would have seen the trees make way for a 20-court sports hall, indoor running track and 200-station fitness suite, with £3 million of the cash coming from Carphone Warehouse founder and alumni David Ross.

Dr Paul Greatrix, Registrar at the University of Nottingham said: “The decision smacks of hypocrisy. Given the number of mature trees, including 40 on University Boulevard, felled by the city council to make way for the tram and ring road improvements.

“There are over 5,000 trees on University Park campus, of which over 600 are in the same category of significance as the three of concern to the committee.

“Ironically, The University of Nottingham has again this week been announced as the World’s Greenest University in the international green metric ranking. Number one for the third time in four years. We have a national and international reputation for our teaching, research and our environmental stewardship. A point the planning committee seems to have given less weight to than the three trees.

“The University, its staff and students generate over a billion pounds a year for the economy of this city. Every single year. We are one of the leading universities in the world. To sustain this position we need to continue to invest in our estate. The £40 million Sports Village was the next step in this plan. It is extraordinary that the committee failed to realise this.

“The University has also committed to a vision to create an Arboretum of regional and national acclaim throughout the whole 300 acre University Park Campus. In 2012 it planted 40,000 trees on a 60 acre Diamond Wood in Sutton Bonington. Again, this bigger picture seems to have eluded the committee.

“Every effort has been made in the design development of the Sports Village project to minimise the impact on our landscaping and existing trees. The scale of the proposed sports centre is critical for the University to deliver a facility to meet our sporting objectives and aspirations. Whilst we appreciate that the three oak trees are significant specimens, they must be considered in the overall context of over 5,000 trees on University Park campus, of which 600 are in the same category of significance.

“This is bad decision-making and flies in the face of the recommendations and advice from the professional council officers.

“A case where some members of the planning committee were genuinely unable to see the wood for the trees.”

City councillors said they had "serious concerns" about the loss of the oak trees which are at least 150 years old.

Councillor Cat Arnold, who sits on the committee, said: "I'm very worried about the prospect of losing the trees. It would be vandalism for the trees to be axed." ...

The six councillors who voted in favour of the plans were Chris Gibson, Liaqat Ali, Rosemary Healy, Gul Khan, Eileen Morley and Roger Steel.

Those opposed were Cat Arnold, Alan Clark, Mike Edwards, Ginny Klein, Sally Longford, Wendy Smith and Malcolm Wood.

Deputy Leader of the Council, Graham Chapman, who is a member of the planning committee, did not vote as his wife works for the University.

Member of the planning committee were warned by officers that their decision could be overturned and that if the University lodged an appeal and was successful, this could cost the Council thousands of pounds in compensation.

WHAT NEXT ...?

The Woodland Trust speaks ...

www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

Nottingham City Council’s planning committee has saved three veteran oak trees threatened by the University of Nottingham's plans for a new sports centre

Result!

Over the last few days, we have worked hard to ensure that all concerned heard why preserving these trees, estimated to be up to 450 years old, is so important. We have been inundated with support.

Together, we persuaded 7 out of 13 members of the committee to vote against the plans, despite the case officer’s recommendation to approve them.

What about the long term?

The University has six months to appeal the decision but we hope to persuade it to submit a new application that seeks to retain the trees, especially given its reputation for innovative thinking and environmental excellence. We will be getting in touch to offer our advice and support.

What is a veteran tree?

A veteran tree is usually in the second or mature stage of its life and has important wildlife and habitat features including hollowing, fungi, holes, wounds and large dead branches.

Thousands of species depend on veteran and ancient trees and, the older the tree, the better the quality of wildlife associated with it. Because of the general scarcity of these trees in the countryside, many of the species that depend on them are nationally rare.

APPEAL TO UNIVERSITY

An appeal has been made for people to write to the Registrar at Nottingham University:

paul.greatrix@nottingham.ac.uk

and to the Nottingham Post:

opinion@nottinghampost.com

to support the Woodland Trust's approach to the University to think again and submit a new application which will retain the trees.