Still no environmental or economic impact assessment
The Council has published a report on its plans to establish a new 50,000 tree forest on land near Knapton.
The scheme had been criticised as “impulsive” with taxpayers believing that economic and environmental assessments of the effects of losing such a large area of good quality farming land – located near to potential consumers – should have been completed first.
No such evaluations, or a cost benefit analysis, have been published in the latest papers.
The project – which does have some merits – will disappoint many Liberal Democrat voters who were promised that accessible public open space would be provided to offset the loss of green fields, to new developments, in the Westfield area.
Other open spaces and footpaths have recently also been sealed off by landowners, making informal leisure options even less accessible for many thousands of residents.
The report reveals that “£1.65 million was used in the land purchase in West York and a further £400,000 was approved for the purchase of adjacent land subject to negotiations with the current landowner (ongoing). Council also allocated £25,000 revenue funding (2020- 2021) rising to £50,000 in 2021/22 and 2022/23 to support woodland creation and this budget sits within the CSCP budget”
The Council says that it is still trying to access “external funding” to offset the costs of the project.
We will see.
No update is provided on the promise to purchase more potential woodland in “an area near to the inner ring road”.
There are many other sites in the City – already in public ownership – where more trees could be planted.
Existing tree stocks have been neglected in recent years with many “highway trees” now needing either crown reduction or crown lifting work. The Councils budget allocation for tree maintenance work has been inadequate for many years.
NB. The report lets slip that the completion of the land purchase was announced in a “LibDem media release in October”. At that time, the restrictions on revealing the site location – imposed by the Councils Executive at a formal session – had not been formally lifted. It is without precedent for a major Council decision to be formally announced by a political party in advance of the Council itself issuing a progress statement. Those concerned will no doubt be hoping that no one reports this indiscretion to the Standards Committee!