SPOKEN OUT: Claims that a supermarket chain was responsible for the destruction of trees
Protesters at the former Northern School of Art campus in Linthorpe are angry that trees have been felled, Image: LDRS
Middlesbrough’s mayor has spoken out over claims that a supermarket chain was responsible for the destruction of trees in Linthorpe.
According to Andy Preston, German chain Lidl wants to open a new store on Green Lane on the site of the former Northern School of Art campus.
However, local residents and the mayor have both spoken out after trees were felled on the land.
Mayor Andy Preston said: “This morning I received official confirmation that Lidl supermarket chain has bought the art college site.
“I don’t think that this is the right location for a supermarket in Linthorpe – but that’s for discussion after we clarify the tree situation.
“Lidl tell me that their tree experts removed only unprotected trees from the site. Council staff are working hard to check if this is correct.
“I have asked that the company’s UK boss Mr Christian Härtnagel visits and talks to residents.
“The site’s previous owners Northern School of Art were legally prohibited from disclosing that Lidl had bought the site.
“It seems to me that the supermarket chain was going to keep their purchase quiet for the time being but the controversy about the trees has forced their hand.
“I will come back with more information as I get it but to state my position again: I don’t think that a supermarket on that site is right for Linthorpe.”
Protestors gathered at the site on Saturday (November 6) morning alongside Linthorpe councillor Philippa Storey.
Speaking at the weekend, the Labour councillor added: “We are out today to protect the remaining trees that are on this land. They have been well-loved by families across Linthorpe and the destruction we see around us is devastating.”
Despite contractors at the site telling Cllr Storey that they would not touch the trees with Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), protestors believe that there was an order on a silver birch that was destroyed, however, that is yet to be confirmed by the council.
One of those who attended the protest, Linthorpe resident Diane McLernon, a former student and employee of the art college, was furious at the scale of the destruction.
She added: “They have just been decimated. I am absolutely incandescent with rage, I feel really upset.
“I have sat here myself as a student and I have sat with students, drawing those trees and photographing the trees. We have sat under those trees having picnics and sharing nice times together.
“And to see the loss of habitat as well, you have got tiny little ecosystems, you’ve got finches, robins and blackbirds, there is lots of wildlife that depend on those trees and now it’s all gone.
“It really upsets me to think that we should be protecting our environment, not decimating it.”
Lollipop lady Elaine Dunn, 63, whose daughter and son live in the area was also frustrated at the felling of the trees.
She said: “I just think it’s sacrilege really because they have been here for years and years and years and they are doing their job environment-wise. I think they should have really sat and thought about it first before they set the woodchoppers here to chop them all down.
“My daughter and son live around here so I’m here every other day and it’s just lovely to see the trees in all the seasons, whereas now we’ll probably just see another set of concrete bricks.”
Local resident Colin Whittaker, 74, has felt helpless about the loss of the trees and said that a particularly impressive weeping willow had been destroyed.
Lidl has been contacted for comment.
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter
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