Newark and Sherwood District Council backtracks on decision to destroy trees and bulldoze green space for London Road carpark extension
A council has backtracked on its decision to fell trees and bulldoze a green space to extend a Newark carpark.
Newark and Sherwood district councillors made the u-turn at tonight's extraordinary full meeting after works to extend London Road carpark and fell four trees were dramatically halted on November 12 following the emergence of a last-minute deal offered by the landowner.
The 11th-hour offer from Dan Derry meant deputy council leader Keith Girling announced the trees had a stay of execution ahead of the offer being discussed at the meeting.
It came after campaigners spent the night under the trees on November 11 after refusing council and police orders to leave.
Mr Girling brought forward a motion that the authority's decision on October 12's full council to continue with the works be reconsidered — meaning the plans would be scrapped if the majority of members voted for it.
The deal was that the council purchases the freehold of the land by the library for the sum of £450,000, and to retain it as green space. The alternative was the council would have paid Mr Derry's company £600,000 over the course of a 25-year lease, as well as building costs.
Mr Girling, who had previously voted for the carpark extension, said: "When planning was sought for the carpark in 2017, there was only one short comment opposed to the carpark.
"Things are different now to what they were then.
"We appreciate your passion, care and concern for the environment — and your point of views.
"The vast majority have done the campaign thoughtfully, thoroughly and respectfully — for these people we have the utmost respect and we never stop looking out for you.
"Comments that we are out of touch are incredibly unreal.
"We've committed to planting 10,000 trees before 2023 and already 7,000 have been planted so far and 2,500 given away to residents. We're also looking to add solar panels to council buildings."
Mr Girling added an independent audit review had already started.
The motion was seconded by Ronnie White.
Laurence Goff said he wanted to thank the protesters.
"We need to find common ground by working better in the future," he said. "There was anger and frustration when those barricades went up on the 11th day of the 11th month.
"Residents and children too were crying — it's madness to do that on a special day.
"The cost of the 30 police there, why is this costing the taxpayer?
"It's easy to blame the protesters, they have courage and conviction. Some might say only it's only four trees but the petition counted 6,081 signatures and a new beginning is coming.
"The birds and the bats will sing with one voice — let freedom ring."
Paul Peacock, Labour Group leader of the council, said today's victory was because of the people of Newark.
"The council spent the month after the October 12 full council meeting doing the wrong thing — wasting taxpayers money again," he said. "It's not difficult to do the right thing.
"I accepted responsibility for my earlier vote for the carpark, but it wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
"We need to learn from this sorry episode and we need an independent investigation."
Summing up, Mr Girling said: "We've had councillor Peacock stand up for a second time and said he's apologised for voting for this in the first place.
"And his excuse was he didn't understand and realise what chopping a tree down was. And, in hoping, that actually you'd forgive his stupidity because it's obvious what you do when you chop a tree down.
"How can we trust he understands what he is voting for now?"
Following the meeting, Mr Peacock told the Advertiser: "Mr Girling clearly hasn't learned his lessons."
Dozens of protesters packed the chamber at Castle House to listen to the debate and were jubilant after the majority vote.
Pam Ball, one of the four last protesters on site, said she was ecstatic.