22 March 2021
Abbey People have secured funding in conjunction with the lottery to put a "Friendly Bench" in Abbey, designed to allow community and local communal gardening to thrive in the local area. Rawlyn Road was chosen following a consultation, with the bench dedicated to Councillor Caroline Hart.
Some local residents realised the imminent threat to the mature beech trees nearby on Rawlyn Road and contacted the council tree officers this morning, who attended at very short notice to investigate, confirming the concerns of some residents that this was likely to result in the death of the trees on Rawlyn Road. After discussion with those contracted to work on this, there was agreement to wait for more information from the tree officers about the location. “It’s a pity,” said Monica Hone, “that they chose to put it under these beech trees which are already under severe water stress due to climate change. The thickness of the concrete surface would have meant the death of these two beautiful beech trees. “ Other residents raised concerns about the possibility of antisocial behaviour around the bench.
Hannah Charlotte Copley, Green Party City Council Candidate for Abbey Ward, said "I am very supportive of the goals of Abbey People with this initiative to improve community cohesion and combat loneliness, the second hidden pandemic affecting so many of us. Rawlyn Road has a beautiful area of mature trees, and I want to make sure that residents do not end up watching these trees die as a result of this area of concrete being put in, which is a real possibility as beech trees have very shallow roots. We will hopefully have some more information about where would be a safe place for the "Friendly Bench" to go so that residents can enjoy the shade from these trees for decades to come and enjoy the "Friendly Bench", whether this will involve a new location, or an alternative material for the base that allows water to permeate through whilst still making it accessible for wheelchair users."
We have all come to value our green spaces through the pandemic, and we welcome initiatives to help people enjoy these spaces. We are thankful to Abbey People for taking the concerns raised so seriously and pausing the work to investigate this further. We must take into account the biodiversity and climate change emergencies as declared by the City Council for decision making in the city, and we hope a water permeable base or alternative location can be implemented for this project and residents' concerns can be addressed."