‘Green oasis’ under threat as school bids to improve access

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RESIDENTS say plans to put a new access to a school through a row of trees, destroying a majestic 150-year-old horse chestnut will ruin a precious urban woodland.

Hymers College, in Hull, an independent school for pupils aged eight to 18, says the new access off Sunny Bank, is needed to relieve congestion which has been a problem for years.

But residents claim it will destroy “a beautiful part of the conservation area where mature trees are safeguarded by protection orders” and are incensed by plans to fell the horse chestnut, a “cornerstone” of an arcade of trees which they say predates the school itself, and date back to the old Botanic Gardens.

The council’s own urban forestry officer has questioned claims only four trees will have to come down as a result of the latest plans, saying eight more mature trees are “likely to be lost” because of the road-building.

Opponents are urging councillors to refuse the application – which is recommended for conditional approval by officers – at a meeting on Wednesday.

Sunny Bank’s oldest resident Rosie Dalheim, 82, who played in the grounds of the school as a child, said the plans were “absolutely abhorrent”: “This is such a lovely, little green oasis. This is why we chose Sunny Bank. It is lovely, peaceful. They just think they can do what they like.”

And artist Mike Chilton, who has lived on the street since 1967, said car parking and 1,000 square metres of hardstanding would make the woodland “unrecognisable”: He said: “Lots of us have had children who have gone to the school and we have always sought to work in harmony with them and been supportive.

“This is the first time they have seen fit to ride roughshod over our views.”

Steve Clark, secretary of the local residents association, said some of the congestion could be resolved by simpler measures like car sharing: “What the school is proposing to do is put a road in down the middle of trees which have been there longer than the school.

“There’s one particular tree opposite the entrance where they want to put the gates through with a particularly enormous horse chestnut which would have to come out. If you take that out you create a hole in the canopy which affects the environment for all the wildlife.”

The plans have already been deferred twice, most recently to resolve problems caused by a new bus lane on Spring Bank West.

The council says it could remove the section between Brandesburton Street and Chanterlands Avenue to allow traffic to use the nearside lane and prevent queues.

Planners claim that “inevitable” impacts on the area from the loss of trees and green areas and on residents are “acceptable” with mitigation measures.

The school says providing the road within the grounds will take 150 yards of traffic off the local road and also get it away quicker than before.

Headteacher David Elstone said congestion had been an issue throughout his seven years at the school.

“I reckon I get a complaint a week from either parents, local residents or bus company.

“A couple of years ago we employed an experienced transport consultant to look at all possible alternatives to relieve that congestion. We looked at a number of different alternatives and he came up with the idea of an alternative entrance or extra entrance to the school.

“The thinking is that it would relieve the congestion from local roads because it will bring the congestion onto site.

“Both highways and planning agree it will relieve congestion in the local area.”