Work is due to start on 1 March to remove four trees from Market Place in Wokingham town centre, as part of multi-million pound plans to refurbish the area.
The trees are coming down before the annual bird nesting season, which is about to start, because if left until its end this autumn it would disrupt and extend the project’s construction. The trees are also constrained by the surrounding buildings and pavement so cannot mature further, and will be replaced by six semi-mature trees of a species better suited to urban spaces.
The joint project by Wokingham Borough Council and Wokingham Town Council wants to revitalise Market Place to make it more flexible for events and businesses, and more welcoming for residents and visitors.
The aim is to create a newly refurbished space, levelled to be more inclusive, and offering greater flexibility for events. It will also provide better utilities for the market and allow local cafes, restaurants and public houses to flow out onto it during warmer months.
Roots from the two largest trees at the southern end of Market Place are too big for the space they occupy, are pulling up the pavement and are a trip hazard. Their roots are also entwined with a high voltage cable running under the pedestrian area which needs to be moved in the early stages of the project – but cannot be done while the trees are still there.
Every effort will be made to minimise impact while removing the trees. However, because the two largest trees at the southern end are so close to the road and their spread overhangs it, a section of Market Place/ Denmark Street will need to be closed on Wednesday 1 March off peak between 9.30am and 4pm while their canopies are taken down. The following day (2 March) will be used as a back-up if this work isn’t finished, but again this closure would be off-peak only.
Only a small section of Market Place/Denmark Street will be closed. The southern end of Denmark Street will remain open for traffic to access Denmark Street carpark. During this closure traffic will be routed via Broad Street, Shute End, Station Road, and Wellington Road (the current work in Wellington Road is due to finish on 28 February).
The third tree is on the corner of Peach Street and Market Place, while the fourth – the smallest - is next to the Town Hall.
Once the trees are gone, an archaeological survey of the site will be carried out, and the services and utilities beneath the pedestrianised surface then repositioned to accommodate the new design of Market Place, road layout, drainage, and the replacement trees.
The main phase of the work is due to start in June and finish in spring next year.
“No-one wants to see trees removed but these ones aren’t suitable for the space they’re in,” said Cllr Malcolm Richards, executive member for highways and transport.
“Their semi-mature replacements are more suited to urban environments and have controlled canopies. They will be planted in specially designed tree pits which help them flourish without damaging their roots.”
Cllr Peter Lucey, chairman of the Town Council Market Working Party, said: “Whilst of course sorry to see the old trees taken down, I am delighted the Market Place refurbishment project is moving forward.
“And as part of the new design everyone will be able to appreciate newly-planted trees, provided with proper root pits, to complement our beautiful Market Place: an open and welcoming space where we can all linger, enjoy a coffee or meal, browse the market, and watch the entertainment.”