Pressure group campaign to prevent felling of 126 mature trees in Huddersfield road widening scheme

Pressure is mounting on council chiefs to reconsider a contentious plan to cut down mature trees as part of a £12.9m plan to speed up traffic on the A629 Halifax Road out of Huddersfield.

The protest group in Huddersfield

Campaigners marched the route last weekend and congregated in St George’s Square to give speeches on the controversial scheme, which will result in the felling of 126 trees to widen the congested route.

The project has got the backing of bosses on Labour-run Kirklees Council, who have repeatedly defended the proposal with claims that reducing queuing and slow-moving traffic at bottlenecks between the town centre and Ainley Top will reduce air pollution.

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Last year the council flatly refused to accede to a request by the Greens to shelve the scheme, claiming that would lead to gridlock. But opposition is growing.

Now Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has revealed he has called for the matter to be scrutinised by the council’s newly-appointed Climate Commission, which is chaired by Professor Peter Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Sustainable Spatial Development at the University of Leeds.

Mr Sheerman said he made a formal suggestion last month to a senior figure within the council in an attempt to relieve tension and cool the heated debate.

He said: “I don’t like people being in conflict. I’m trying to be a peacemaker.”

Asked directly if the council was “out of step with public opinion” Mr Sheerman said: “It’s a difficult one for me.

“I don’t like to see any trees being cut down. I am troubled about it. I was seeking to resolve it by putting it into the hands of Professor Peter Roberts, who is one of the leading environmentalists in the country.

“With a controversy like this why not ask for a second opinion? It gives the Climate Commission a real substantial problem to get its teeth into.”

Local Greens have spearheaded the campaign to save the trees. They said the “unique tree-lined entrance to town through Edgerton needs defending” if it is to be retained and ”want the council to “get round the table” with objectors.

Speaking in St George’s Square following last weekend’s march Coun Andrew Cooper (Green, Newsome) urged campaigners to lobby councillors outside Huddersfield Town Hall on Wednesday prior to a meeting of full council.

He said: “If you want to get down there and stand outside before the meeting to express your dismay at the proposals and lobby the council as they go in, then please do that because it will be in their face again. It tells them more about what the strength of local feeling is.”

Local Liberal Democrats have also come out against the felling of healthy trees.

Cahal Burke and Anthony Smith both represent Lindley ward through which the A629 runs.

They have been in discussions with council officers in an attempt to find a way to protect those trees at risk. They say the 750 younger trees to be planted along the route are “less effective at absorbing harmful airborne particles”.

Coun Burke said: “Traffic congestion in this area contributes to poor air quality. The scheme should help to minimise congestion and reduce emissions, although I don’t think the benefits will be immediate.”

The Conservatives’ Adam Gregg, elected in May in Lindley ward, said: “Whilst I support action on traffic hot spots, having listened to residents’ concerns, I believe the Cabinet should go back to the drawing board and develop a better solution.”