Campaigners in Huddersfield have questioned Kirklees Council’s ‘green’ credentials and its commitment to tackle what the local authority itself designated a “climate emergency.”
Hundreds of people have joined forces under the banner Save the Trees Kirklees to fight plans to widen the A629 Halifax Road between Huddersfield town centre and Ainley Top.
As part of the £13 million scheme, which is said will shave journey times for drivers by a maximum of just 60 seconds, 126 mature trees would be lost.
Campaigners have accused Kirklees Council of “civic vandalism” saying the council can’t claim to be tackling the Climate Emergency when they are chopping down dozens of carbon-soaking decades-old trees and encouraging more polluting cars on the roads.
The council’s planning application is now open to public consultation until August 20 and campaigners were in Halifax Road near the junction with Blacker Road on Saturday to highlight their concerns.
They also plan to be out for the next two Saturdays and will also lobby councillors outside the next full council meeting on September 8.
Campaign spokesman Sarah Newton said the council’s plans “made no sense whatsoever” in the light of the Climate Emergency declared by Kirklees Council itself in 2019.
“Kirklees Council says they will replace these trees but you can’t replace a 200-year-old tree in terms of biodiversity and the amount of carbon it takes out of the atmosphere,” she said.
“Our expert estimates that these trees take away six tonnes of carbon a year from what is quite a polluted area. I am at a loss as to how the council can justify this level of environmental damage.”
Sarah said the council’s own figures showed that car journeys on Halifax Road were falling even before the pandemic from 23,000 cars a day in 2005 to 17,000 in 2018.
“Traffic is declining on this road and even the council’s own figures don’t support what they are doing.
“If I was a councillor and there was a 300-year-old wood on the edge of the town centre I would want to cherish and enhance it. Chopping it down is civic vandalism.
“In a few years this road will be just as congested and future generations will look back and ask what on earth they were doing.”
Sarah said the group weren’t opposed to the whole scheme, just the part around the Blacker Road junction which would see the loss of 87 trees which were around 80-100 years old.
She said the trees provided protection to residents in what was a “noisy and quite polluted” area.
“If the trees go it will make people’s homes almost uninhabitable,” she said. “Chop the trees down and widen the road and it will be a horrible place to live. People won’t want to live there.”
An online petition called ‘Save Edgerton’s Iconic Trees in Huddersfield’, referring to the trees at the Blacker Road junction, has been signed by more than 2,000 people in a little over a week.
There are also many objections to the plans on the council website.
One objector wrote: “The removal of mature trees is absolutely appalling and goes against everything that the council should be doing to prevent climate change. This road does not need to be widened to save the motorist a few minutes.
“Reliable, frequent and cheap public transport should be invested in and people should be enticed away from car usage to help reduce climate change.”
An objector who signed themselves as a “retired Kirklees traffic engineer” wrote: “At a time of worsening climate crisis when Kirklees has declared a Climate Emergency, it is contradictory to go ahead with large scale road building projects such as this.
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“It was proved in the 1990s by Lewis-Mogridge that increasing road capacity leads to more car travel and this will be the result of this scheme.
“It contains little or no measures to encourage people to use public transport so its result will be to encourage more travel by car and the consequent increase in use of fossil fuels adding to poor air quality and increased carbon in the atmosphere.
“In the short-term, there will be a small improvement in journey times but within a few years this will be wiped out by the induced traffic.”
Another added: “In 2019 Kirklees Council recognised and declared a Climate Emergency. On August 9 the International Panel on Climate Change released yet another report detailing the dire situation regarding the climate emergency and planet.
“The proposed road widening is contrary to spirit of the local authority’s declared aspirations to work towards net-zero. The climate and natural world emergencies are here now, we do not have the luxury of time to wait for newly planted trees to grow.
“The tree lined A629 is one of prettiest roads for miles around. Felling mature trees should be avoided if the beauty of the area is to be maintained and we are to continue to benefit from their sound and pollution absorbing qualities.
“We are fast running out of time. The funds earmarked for this project should be refocused to address the climate and natural world emergencies.”
Another objection says: “The headlines are full of it every day – unless we act now the world is in great danger as a result of climate change.
“Yet here we are with a council proposing another scheme to support car users – to improve their travel time by 60 seconds but by sacrificing the health and wellbeing of everyone, young and old, living in the area.
“On the one hand Kirklees have declared a climate emergency and have produced climate targets and yet they are proposing a scheme that will inevitably increase the amount of (traffic) and at the same time reducing the number of mature trees so vital in the capturing of carbon from the environment.
“Replacing mature trees with saplings is not a like for like swap. It will take at least 20 to 25 years for the new trees to absorb the levels of carbon that the existing trees are capable of.
“So this decision will affect the health of everyone living in this area for generations to come. The proposed scheme aims to reduce journey times from the town centre to Ainley Top roundabout by about 60 seconds. This is a negligible amount and at a cost of mine, my children’s and my grandchildren’s health.”
Another wrote: “The felling of so many old trees is damaging to the environment. These old trees cannot ever be replaced once gone. The tree-lined road into Huddersfield from the motorway is one of the outstanding areas of natural beauty in the area.
“The data shows that the traffic has lessened in this area making the proposal unnecessary. Any group of humans that put a few less minutes on a commute above the killing of oxygen giving life forms is seriously deluded in my opinion.
“Climate change requires more trees, less cars, not the other way round. The ancient trees in our community must be protected.”