You've heard of Hereford, haven't you? No, it is not a place that possesses some Brigadoon-esque existence, appearing every 200 years. Hereford is one of this country's smaller cathedral cities, an oasis of municipality within one of the most sparsely populated counties. A third of the county's inhabitants live in the city, but that still only numbers about 59,000 people.
If you were to watch the national, or even regional news, you'd think that not a lot actually happens here on the western fringes of England, but you would actually be wrong. Something, sadly, is amiss, and those in power seem to be relying on the previous apathy of a now wakening population at large to achieve their own ambitions.
Driving into Hereford is an interesting experience. Due to financial crises (which no one will admit is their fault but that is for another article, not this one, even if the double counting does amount to millions) there are some roads in the city that would put a Third World Country to shame, with deep rutted potholes ready to catch the unwary cyclist, car or even pedestrian and about which the Council seems unwilling to face reality. But then there is Edgar Street which, as part of the A49 trunk road, and is maintained by the Highways Agency. Edgar Street is sandwiched between two roundabouts. To the south is a large one, surrounded by a new development, houses, a Tesco supermarket and accompanying bus station, along with more sets of traffic lights than you can shake a stick at. At the top is a roundabout at a set of crossroads. All of these serve to limit the flow of traffic.
So what, you ask, am I blathering on about? Well, there are plans afoot to widen the road at the southern end to add an extra lane to the already extant two lanes of traffic each way. This will necessitate the removal of fourteen mature lime trees on their own patch of land, and it is these trees that are the bone of contention.
There are a number of issues to be considered:
1 - Herefordshire Council says that the trees are on the edge of the city's conservation area, while the council's map of the aforementioned area clearly shows that the trees are within it.
2 - Emails sent by concerned residents of the city to the Highways Agency go unanswered.
3 - There is a very active petition with over 2000 signatures and an accompanying Facebook group.
4 - Phone calls to the Conservation Department at the Council get little or no response. The Council seems unwilling to allow Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) to be placed on the trees.
5 - The Council and the Highways Agency will not state who had the original idea.
6 - Both The Council and the Highways Agency will not agree to a public meeting.
7 - Opposition to the plan includes a good number of councillors and the City's Member of Parliament, Jesse Norman.
Even though it is a trunk road, the amount of through traffic using Edgar Street amounts to 12-15% of the total amount. Hereford itself does not really have a traffic problem, as the most people have to wait at the Edgar Street Roundabout is normally little more than five minutes.
At present the trees provide a welcome relief from the perpetual onslaught of modernity, and also prevent residents of the street seeing the eyesore that is a new retail development, which itself is being blithely built in spite of opposition to it. They also would prevent light and noise pollution for the residents opposite what is going to be the service area for the said development, with deliveries trundling in all hours of the night.
It was said that 'localism' should be important, that the people should have a right to have input as to what they do and do not want to happen. However, this does not appear to be the case in Hereford, where the Council and the Highways Agency seem to be determined to wipe out every single iota of character from what is actually a beautiful city that many should envy, transforming it into a bland, anonymous, ugly city that resembles every other city in the country.
The petition can be found here http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-edgar-street-trees-hereford"