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Retaining historic North Tce trees impossible: Lot 14 landscaper

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Replacing pavers on the North Terrace footpath outside Lot Fourteen would be impossible without chopping down 11 century-old trees, the landscaper in charge of the development says, while also revealing the project will require the costly removal of four streetlight poles put in place during recent tram works.

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How the North Terrace tree saga has played out:

Addressing an Adelaide City Council committee meeting this week, Oxigen director James Hayter, whose architecture firm has been employed by Renewal SA to produce landscape designs for Lot Fourteen on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, said planners initially sought to retain the trees, but were told it would be impossible to guarantee their survival during excavation works.

InDaily revealed last month that Renewal SA was seeking the council’s approval to remove 10 100-year-old elms and one plane tree lining the northern side of North Terrace from Frome Road to the front of the Bice Building to create what it describes as a “seamless entry” to the site.

Nine 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.

Some city councillors and members of the public have lambasted the move, criticising Renewal SA for seeking to chop down the historic trees before they reached the end of their lifespan.

But Hayter said excavation works required to replace the damaged paving on the North Terrace footpath could cut through the trees’ roots, potentially killing the trees.

“The first thing we did was say, ‘can we keep these trees?’ and the answer was ‘no you can’t do that’,” Hayter told the meeting.

“When these trees were put in originally, they were just being put in, which is why the pavement is in such poor condition because all the roots are lifting the pavers,” he said.

“If we went in there and excavated to put new paving in we would be potentially cutting all the lateral roots, which would potentially kill the trees.”

Tram infrastructure obstructing the North Terrace footpath is set to be relocated as part of the Lot Fourteen works. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Hayter said the footpath would be repaved with granite pavers on a concrete slab, similar to what is already in place along Rundle Mall and the ANZAC Walk on Kintore Avenue, requiring excavation of about 450 to 500-millimetres.

He said the design of the North Terrace footpath was “chaotic” and required costly renovations to ensure it could safely accommodate the approximate 60,000 people who are expected to visit Lot Fourteen on a daily basis once the development is complete.

“Some would describe it, and I’d describe it, as dangerous,” he said.

“People would used to go and sit on the low walls and smoke, you’d have the bus stop and you would have an absolute craziness of people there.

“What used to happen was people would used to actually walk on the road because it was so crowded.

“Because of the location of the trees and the garden beds and the arrangement of it, it’s still really tight and it’s difficult to take cyclists along there.

“What you have now will not really work in the future.”

A render of the proposed North Terrace footpath design as part of the Lot Fourteen development. Image: State Government

Compounding the issue, according to Hayter, is the Botanic Garden tram stop, which only opened in October last year.

Hayter said four tram streetlight poles would need to be relocated as part of the Lot Fourteen development.

“When the infrastructure for the tram was put in it was put in for the existing situation, not for a longer-term situation, which matches the cultural boulevard,” he said.

“These are large poles which are holding up the wires for the tram and part of the works will relocate those from where they sit in the centre of the footpath to the edge of the footpath.

“I emphasise that because it’s going to be expensive to remove them, but we have to remove them as part of these works.”

Removing the trees and the streetlight poles would allow planners to increase the width of the North Terrace footpath from 4.5 to 5.6 metres, allowing for a “shared-use” cyclist and pedestrian thoroughfare.

Hayter said the design of the footpath included planting 12, 6.5-metre high semi-mature trees to replace the trees flagged for removal.

According to Hayter, those trees would provide the current level of shade “well within” five years.

“The current trees are not going to die all at once, they’re going to die when they will and difficulty is (knowing) when do you take them out.

“It’s difficult to know but at some stage they will have to be removed.”

Protestors have erected signs to the North Terrace trees at risk of being chopped down. Photo: Supplied

An online petition calling on the city council to reject approving the removal of the trees has so far gathered 940 signatures.

“These beautiful, established trees are a part of Adelaide’s heritage and should be retained,” the petition states.

“The trees and animals and birds that shelter in them only have us to stand up for them.”

The council is expected to debate granting approval to remove the trees on September 17 ahead of a formal vote on September 24.

According to a State Government media release sent last month, the Lot Fourteen “public realm” works are scheduled to start in stages, with the first stage due to begin this month and be completed by early 2020.

A Renewal SA spokesperson told InDaily on Tuesday that it would not commence work on the North Terrace footpath until the council provided landlord consent.

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