Timeline of posts on Victoria Stories blog
Created by GuardianLeeds on 07/03/2011
Last updated: 07/03/11 at 09:09
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The element of the new-look gardens likely to have the greatest
visual impact is the new trees, and we are delighted that they are
all now in place.
The three open sides of the site are now lined with twenty six
semi-mature London Plane trees. Despite
their current lack of foliage (I’m sure the spring will soon see to
that) you can already make out the box-headed form; the feature
which makes this choice of species a bold statement.
Scheme designer - Groundwork's Design Team Leader - Mark Topping
commented saying: “It's been very exciting seeing the new trees
planted within the site. Planes were chosen initially due to their
tolerance to air pollution and pruning. In the past London Plane
trees were linked to significantly reducing smog and air pollution
within cities during the industrial revolution, and today they
absorb pollution from traffic and should therefore significantly
improve the air quality along the Headrow.
The bark of these trees, as you can already see, has a beautiful
pattern of green, white and cream which will intensify as the trees
mature. The leaves will be a rich green colour, large, deeply lobed
and should provide a dense foliage, casting welcome shade in the
summer. As the trees mature they will also develop attractive
rounded fruit clusters which will hang on the branches for most of
The trees have been lovingly lowered into place over the last
couple of weeks by Leeds City Council's Parks & Countryside
department who have done a fantastic job, using much precision and
patience in their task. Parks & Countryside are the principal
contractor for this element of the works with
The old stone planters at Victoria Gardens have been
treated to a well-earned clean and spot of care and attention.
The stone has been cleaned with a DOFF clean system
which spays superheated water to remove algae and dirt; a kind
of stone equivalent to a dermabrasion spa treatment. The
stones have all been reset and realigned to their original
positions, and re-pointed.
While still structurally sound on the whole, the
overall look of the planters had understandably been affected due
to their city-centre location and exposure to pollution over the
past 70 years. The consultation
phase of the project revealed an overwhelming preference to retain
the planters, both from an environmental point of view and due to
their function as a buffer between the gardens and the Headrow
traffic, hence they were cleaned and repaired.
The freshly-cleaned planters will become home to the new
London Plane trees which have now
started going in.
Examples of the stone before and
after the cleaning and re-pointing
Welcome to Victoria
Stories which over the next few months will accompany you
on the journey of the Victoria Gardens Refurbishment in Leeds!
This is a project with a difference - for a
number of reasons:
It is funded by Marks & Spencer and being
carried out by Groundwork, a local environmental and regeneration
charity. In turn, Groundwork is working in close partnership with
Leeds City Council to deliver the project, making this an excellent
example of the private, charitable and public sectors working
together - to ‘do things differently’.
M&S has been funding a whole series of
similar projects (under the banner of
We have received a number of comments from
members of the public regarding the type and species of the new
trees specified in the design.
The 16 trees removed will be replaced by
26 new semi-mature London Plane trees which will be
far more resilient in the restricted planting areas and to the
impact of both climate change and atmospheric pollution. Indeed
their natural life span is far greater than the trees removed from
These trees will be maintained to a maximum
height of 6.5m and a maximum crown width of 3m in a box-headed
form. This species of tree can achieve much greater sizes in
optimum growing conditions, however they should thrive for many
years at the above height within the planters. They also
provide habitat for a number of birds and insects which should
contribute significantly to the Green Infrastructure along the
The London Plane Tree
For any of you who have passed the site
recently you will see that work is now well underway.
One of the first pieces of work undertaken was
the removal of 16 trees from the planters along the front of the
site. While these trees will be replaced – and replaced with a
greater number of trees - we understand fully that the removal of
any trees can be a disappointment to people, and we are
aware that a small number of people have expressed their
disappointment in this instance.
The issue of removing/replacing the existing
trees was debated with Leeds City Council when we were first
planning the project. The option of removing some of the existing
trees and plant replacements along the front on the Headrow was
suggested primarily to enhance the public space.
As part of the design and planning process a
formal tree survey was carried out by Leeds City Council's
Arboricultural officers last Spring and their report showed that
the trees would need replacing in the short term. Although the
original trees appeared healthy, the majority had significant die
back in the crowns and would over a short time become unsafe along
such a busy thoroughfare. After much debate this recommendation was
incorporated by ourselves into the final plans presented to Leeds
City Council partners, Leeds City Council Planning Department and
Plans Panel Members.
At each stage of the process there was a
healthy debate about the need to replace the trees and the ultimate
type and style of the replacements. We also spent some time last
year asking members of the public what they thought of our ideas
prior to submitting the final proposals for approval, and the
results of those surveys showed that the majority of people were in
favour of the trees being replaced.
The two Red Oak trees in front of the Library,
the large Italian Alder at the side of the Gallery and the Buyeurs
Oak near the Cenotaph were all adjudged to be much healthier and we
have incorporated them into the final scheme design.
The removal of the trees means the site
currently looks a little bare, but the planters are now in the
process of being cleaned up and some of the new London Plane trees
have already arrived on-site ready to be planted in the next few
As an organisation, Groundwork Leeds plants on
average around 3500 trees a year (in fact last year this figure was
over 7500). These were planted primarily in Leeds, but also in
parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.
After many months in the planning, work officially commenced at
Victoria Gardens on Thursday 13th January – in the presence of some
very important visitors...
Patricia Swannell, wife of new M&S Chairman Robert Swannell,
and Richard Gillies, Director of Plan A at M&S (within whose