A MULTI-million-pound flood prevention scheme could see the removal of up to 100 trees from a much-loved South Tyneside park, it has emerged.
Northumbrian Water is to spend £2.63m to create an underground water storage tank in North Marine Park in South Shields.
The work is an attempt to prevent the flash floods that have wreaked havoc for traders in nearby Ocean Road over recent months.
Originally, South Tyneside Council had pledged the felling of trees as a result of the work would be “kept to a minimum”.
Now, it appears the loss of trees involved could be much greater than expected, however. The issue has been raised by campaigner Shirley Ford, the Green Party’s North-East candidate for the European Parliament next year, after she was alerted by a woman who lives near the park.
Mrs Ford said: “This lady was talking to the contractors who are already on site, and she was told that 100 mature trees would be felled to make way for the storage tank.
“I understand that this work is needed, but to lose 100 trees, most of them historic and prized species, is an awful lot and very worrying indeed.”
A spokesman for the council confirmed that a “number of trees” would need to go, but said the exact number to be chopped down was “not yet known”.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said the proposed maintenance work at North Marine Park was “an essential part of the borough’s flood management plans”.
She added: “We understand the concerns of some residents about the impact this may have on the park itself, but it’s vital, as Ocean Road was flooded on six separate occasions last year alone.
“Unfortunately, the work will mean the removal of a number of trees, but we are looking to try and minimise these numbers during the actual working programme.
“A majority of these species have been self-planted and aren’t classed as mature trees.
“The council and its partners are working closely with members of the surrounding community including engaging with local schools and the Friends of Marine Park, to help design and craft the future look of the park.
“They will have a blank canvas to develop and nurture, with a hope that this will enable members of the public to reinforce their connection with the park, moving forward.”
A statement released by the council last month said: “While construction of the underground storage tank will mean removal of some trees and shrubs in North Marine Park, a site has been chosen which keeps the loss of trees to a minimum and avoids the park’s most historic and distinctive specimens.
“Once landscaping work is complete at the end of the project, the tank will not be visible to park users.”