In what was described as ‘one of the most farcical events that has been witnessed,’ by Alison Bagley, from the Northants Telegraph; the men in suits from ‘Stanton Cross’, i.e. Vistry Bovis Homes, bungled their way through what was a chaotic nonsensical exhibition. An event which one councillor was initially told they couldn’t enter, a ‘drop-in’ session that asked people to register for tickets that weren’t checked and where members of the press were told they could not ask questions, take photos or record video or audio of the public event.
For the first time since it emerged an avenue of much-loved Wellingborough trees was to be chopped down, last night residents came face-to-face with those responsible for putting the plans into action. This came about after sustained protests and defiance against the lime felling in London Road, the developer behind the £1bn housing estate, eventually agreed to a ‘pause’ in proceedings and to host this ‘public information exhibition’. But thoughts that there would be any meaningful engagement were dashed as only two of the eight of the pop-up banners dotted around the venue showed more detailed plans for the area that had previously sparked protests. And these two were identical!
With one member of staff per pop-up residents filled the Swanspool Pavilion – an appropriate location as the Wellingborough Walks starts on the other side of the road. A mass vocal show of support for the trees preceded the 6pm kick-off with upwards of 50 local residents baring placards chanting ‘save our trees!’. Many who had waited patiently in the pouring rain filed into the exhibition to grill Stanton Cross staff with a barrage of queries, only to be answered with they are carrying out North Northamptonshire Council’s wishes. Somewhere between 39 to 45 trees are to be felled, that up to 30 more to go and potentially all of the trees highlighted on the plan. They are planning to chop down the 9 where the gas mains crosses the road, sometime ‘before the next meeting’
Earlier in the day Wellingborough Town Councillors had been invited to a preview of the plans and sworn to secrecy. Cllr Marion Turner-Hawes, co-leader of Save Our Trees campaign, had been told by a member of Stanton Cross staff that her presence would be a conflict of interest. Another councillor intervened to prevent her being barred. She said: “I had every right to go in. It was very upsetting, it was very unpleasant and there was no need for it. At the end of the day it’s all about information. If the information we’ve been asking for as a community is provided and they prove what they are claiming, then the problem disappears. I don’t want the community to have to go to court but they should help to resolve the problem.”
Each person attending the event was given a feedback form to fill asking what planting enhancements they would like to see. Some attendees were horrified to see a second question asking how they would like to see ‘timber generated from clearance works repurposed’. Campaigner Martine Kinsgley, sporting a Save Our Trees T-shirt, said: “I looked at the banners but I haven’t talked to any of the people. The questionnaire is insulting – asking what we want to do with the timber.” Sarah Pearson who also attended said: “This exercise should have happened years ago. This is chaotic – it’s too little, too late. There’s a lot of angry people in this room.”
In this video, we take you down The Walks from Wellingborough School to The Embankment and tell you all about the trees, our SAVE OUR TREES campaign and about last night’s Community Consultation, then add a couple of scenes of destruction, a few protestors and the contractor’s plan; and then we take you back up The Walks from the River Nene to Wellingborough Town Centre, and tell you in in far greater detail about everything already said, plus what you can visit on the way. More feedback including from the developer can be found in the Northants Telegraph. Please do contribute to our Crowfunder for legal action if you can.