Newark and Sherwood district councillors agree to extend London Road Carpark and felling of age-old trees
Councillors have agreed an extension to Newark's London Road Carpark with one stating it would 'future-proof' the town.
Members of Newark and Sherwood District Council who spoke out against the extension were met with loud applause from members of the public, many of whom attended last night's (Tuesday) full council and have been outraged by what's been proposed.
However, the majority of councillors had the view that the financial loss of not building the carpark greatly outweighed the need for the open space and trees on it.
Planning committee chairman Roger Blaney said the council should continue to push through with the carpark plans, saying it was an opportunity for the council to 'future-proof' the carpark.
"Trees, yes I understand fully the CO2. The trees grow, they decline and they die," he said.
"When they die they release the CO2, naturally. Just as they do when they are felled.
"Our target is net zero by 2035 — not absolute zero."
Mr Blaney added the carpark extension was beneficial to the council taxpayers of Newark and Sherwood.
Deputy leader Keith Girling said the council was legally obligated to provide the carpark under the lease agreement signed with Datch Properties Ltd.
He said there was no doubt mistakes had been made in relation to the original planning application, which expires next month, but that the earliest opportunity for the council to break the lease agreement was at 15 years.
Member Peter Harris challenged this, saying there were ways to get out of it and that members should vote to stop the plans — rhetoric that prompted public applause.
Labour Group leader Paul Peacock said he wasn't aware of the importance of the trees when he supported the application in 2017 — but that he would now be voting against it.
"It's clear no one wants to fell those trees but we need that green space, we need as much green space as possible when it's already in short supply," he said.
"How have we got into this mess?
"I've worked here for ten years and at that point in time (when planning permission was granted) I didn't understand the value of those trees.
"I was offered assurance by officers that as Newark grew, we would need extra carparking. I should have tested them further.
"Now there's a feeling those trees and open green space are just too valuable.
"If the council was so sure it was short of carparking spaces, why didn't we use it as carparking in the first place? Instead we sold the space. This makes no sense.
"What due diligence was taken when we sold the asset?
"I look forward to these questions being answered in a review we've now been promised."
Laurence Goff said: "Cleaner, safer, greener — that's been the big motto over the years. We should be proud to keep these trees.
"Why was the (promised) investigation not undertaken before this full council meeting tonight where a vote happening?
"We've got ourselves to blame for the wrongdoings. We need to listen to the people here tonight."
Mr Blaney said he was the leader of the council and chairman of the policy and finance committee at the time the lease was agreed.
"I'm confident there's been no wrongdoing and I'm confident the review will support that," he said.
"I believe they were the right decisions and I stand by them."
The recommendation for the extension to go ahead was carried despite much opposition, which means four age-old trees so coveted by protestors will be felled.