Orange City Council has updated residents attending community forum events last week, with the latest information about ongoing planning to create a new pedestrian mall in Anson Street between Kite and Summer Streets.
Part of the Future City initiative to upgrade Orange’s CBD, the new mall in Anson Street will result in a 40m section of the current road, paved to create a raised pedestrian platform with bollards at each end of the platform to separate pedestrians and traffic.
The estimated $1.5 million project will provide outdoor dining options, innovative street furniture design, self-sustaining rain gardens and storm water reuse options.
As part of the presentation at last week’s community forum events, Council staff confirmed that it is intended that the block’s Plane trees would be removed as part of the upgrade.
Nine Plane trees and two White Cedar trees would be removed because:
- Tree roots have lifted sections of the footpath, creating trip hazards and shop flooding issues
- Tree roots have grown into kerbside gutters interfering with storm water flow
- Damage to buildings
The forum heard the size of the tree trunks and the uneven roots at the base of the trees also reduced the number of parking spaces in Anson Street. The street needs to drain towards Kite Street but the tree root system hampers this.
Council staff assessed a number of options with the aim of retaining the trees.
These included moving the kerb and gutter closer to the shop fronts which would allow the water to travel towards Kite Street. This option would reduce the footpath width and would not address the issue of the root damage to the footpaths and other infrastructure. It would also require services such as telecommunications, water and power to be relocated.
Council also investigated having the gutters drain towards the centre of the road via gutter inlets and under surface stormwater which would then drain towards Kite Street. This option does not address ongoing impact the trees have on footpaths and other infrastructure.
A third option looked into a boardwalk style treatment around the tree roots and across the footpaths. This option does not address the drainage issues and reduces parking. Another limitation is around the levels. A boardwalk to cover the tree roots and the footpath would create access issues at shopfronts.
All three options would require some works that would impact on the root system and tree health.
The key problem with these options is they do not address the core issue, which is the tree roots damaging infrastructure and causing safety risk for pedestrians particularly those with mobility
While the tree removal is within the estimated $1.5 million budget of the total project, other options listed would add $1 million to $1.5 million to the cost of the mall project.
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd said the Council staff had wrestled with the challenge.
“If we were only looking at the problem through the lens of beautiful old trees then the answer would be retain them. But when you add in all the limitations around safety, access and ongoing
damage then it shifts the assessment,” Cr Kidd said.
“We could keep the trees and put in a new footpath and it would be great but at some point we would be back there ripping it up and replacing it when the tree roots do what they do. The trees are
in the wrong place and are planted into heavy clays in the road that prevent the tree roots growing down. This is why the root balls are so huge.”
At an earlier information session for businesses in the area, business operators spoke of how the large leaves from the Plane trees create slip-hazards during wet weather and have blocked gutters in shop awnings.
While the replacement tree species have yet to be chosen, it’s planned new trees will be planted in 2-metre-deep tree-pit root cells, an underground ‘milk-crate-like’ container used to prevent tree
roots damaging surrounding infrastructure.
According to preliminary designs for the new mall area, there would be more trees re-planted in the block than there are now. The new trees would be advanced tree stock of a species to blend with
other street trees of Orange. The new trees would be three to five metres tall.
The nose-in parking planned for Anson Street would create extra parking spaces, including four new disabled parking spaces. Construction work on the proposed new mall in Anson Street is time-tabled to start in the 2nd quarter of next year.
It’s expected the 15 December Council meeting will vote on a report to authorise the work to remove the trees.
Another community forum will also be held on Tuesday 8 December to provide residents the opportunity to learn more about the plans.