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Century-old North Tce trees set for axe in Lot 14 works

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Eleven century-old trees along North Terrace are in danger of being chopped down and replaced with pavers, with both the State Government and Adelaide City Council’s administration pushing for their removal as part of the Lot Fourteen development.

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Renewal SA – the State Government body in charge of transforming the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site into Lot Fourteen – has requested the healthy trees be removed so it can widen the North Terrace footpath and modify ground levels to create what it describes as a “seamless entry” to the site.

The eleven trees facing the axe include ten English elms and one plane tree lining the northern side of North Terrace from Frome Road to the front of the Bice Building.

Ten of the trees are regulated, with one listed as significant.

According to the council, the trees are expected to live to at least 2039 and hold a monetary value of $660,000.

A council paper sets out the positive aspects of the trees, yet ends with a recommendation they be removed.

The paper describes the trees as providing a “notable visual element to the locality”, with a “tolerable” level of risk to the public.

“The absence of any trees in the footpath to the east and the complete absence of any trees on the opposite footpath to the southern side of North Terrace highlights the importance of the contribution they make,” it states.

“Historical photos indicate that the photos are over 100 years old. Aerial photos from 1935 show them to be well established.”

According to the council, Renewal SA has proposed building an “uninterrupted green walk” through the section of the footpath where the trees are currently located, paved with “high-quality natural stone paver”.

“The plans will improve the public amenity through the application of materials and palettes from the North Terrace Master Plan to match the rest of North Terrace,” the paper states.

“Renewal SA has committed funding to undertake the subject tree removals and implement the upgrades.”

A Renewal SA spokesperson told InDaily this morning that an independent arborist had advised that the trees had a “limited” life expectancy of around eight years – a prediction much lower than the council’s 20-year estimate.

Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

The spokesperson said Renewal SA had obtained the appropriate approvals for the trees’ removal, despite the city council not yet voting on the proposal.

The council maintains that its approval is required “in its role as having care and control of the land”, with councillors to debate the matter at Tuesday night’s committee meeting.

Council staff have recommended councillors approve the trees’ removal on the proviso that Renewal SA plant a minimum of eleven new trees along a redeveloped North Terrace footpath – a provision Renewal SA said it would meet.

“On the basis that the trees will need to be replaced sometime into the future; the collective improvements being proposed, including the progressive completion of the North Terrace Master Plan with the cost to be borne by Renewal SA; this outcome is appropriate to warrant support,” the council paper states.

Some councillors are now rebuking that claim, saying the trees’ removal could be avoided.

“These elm trees are more than 100 years old – they are part of the story of our city and our natural heritage,” area councillor Robert Simms said.

“I think many residents and city visitors would be alarmed by this proposal.

“It would dramatically change the historic character of North Terrace – Adelaide’s cultural boulevard – (and) once we lose these beautiful trees we can never get them back.”

Fellow area councillor Anne Moran said the proposal to remove the trees was “outrageous” and would “bode very badly” for the Lot Fourteen development.

“There’s enormous monetary value, they’re not dying and really they should be seen as a gift to the landscape architect, not an impediment.

“Any landscape architect worth his salt – and I’m presuming they’re (Renewal SA) using good ones – would easily be able to open the footpath up and still feature the trees, not chop them down.

“Whenever they plant saplings they’re never as big as a 100-year old tree, so that loses the character.”

South ward councilor Alexander Hyde also chastised the proposal to “rip out healthy trees”, adding he would not support any street renewal proposal before Renewal SA provided detailed designs

“It seems Renewal SA haven’t picked up on the debates we’ve had with DPTI about tree removal in the past so we’ll have to make it clear when this comes up next week,” he said.

“After what the previous Government did to North Terrace by butchering it for a tram to nowhere and congesting traffic, I’ve got limited faith in their ability to deliver good projects.”

Other elected members have made reserved judgements, with Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad saying he was “committed” to make sure the Lot Fourteen site was activated as quickly as possible.

“I would urge Renewal SA to reconsider their designs where possible to lessen ay impact on significant trees,” he said.

“It would also be great if any of those trees are considered for relocation or at least replanted with larger trees.”

South ward councillor Helen Donovan focussed her criticism on the absence of a separated bikeway down North Terrace in the Renewal SA masterplan.

“If we are going to lose these beautiful, established trees, let’s have some vision in ensuring we create something really spectacular and functional for North Terrace and for the community – a space for people, not just a corridor for cars,” she said.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor and councillors Franz Knoll, Jessy Khera and Arman Abrahimzadeh said they would not comment on the proposal before the council publicly released Tuesday’s meeting agenda.

The council is set to vote on the proposal at its meeting on August 26.

Planning Minister Stephan Knoll’s office put out a media release after InDaily published today’s story, announcing that the State Government would plant “large established trees” at Lot Fourteen.

He did not mention the 11 trees flagged for the axe.

“Tree selection and placement is integral to achieving a visually and functionally consistent public realm that also meets aesthetic and ‘healthy cities’ objectives,” he said. 

“The open spaces have been designed to be flexible to cater for the varying needs of the community and will be accessibility friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.” 

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