A tree is to be planted for every resident of South Ribble – all 110,000 of them.
The borough council made the pledge at a cabinet meeting where it unveiled a wider £2.8m programme of works under its “green links” strategy to improve open spaces in the district and the pedestrian and cycle connections between them.
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The tree-planting project is likely to take several years to complete, but was heralded by the Labour cabinet member for finance as being more ambitious than a similar plan which the government has for the entire country.
“The Department for the Environment has said it wants to see 130,000 trees planted nationwide – we’re proposing 110,000 just here in South Ribble,” Cllr Matthew Tomlinson said.
“It’s going to take a lot of work and we can’t time limit it, because it’s a huge undertaking.”
The meeting heard that the work will be carried out in conjunction with the River Ribble Trust, with the council contributing £40,000 to the cost of the trees. The project is designed not only to enhance the appeal of the borough, but also improve its air quality.
“They will have to be the right trees in the right place – and make a contribution to [reducing] air pollution,” deputy council leader Mick Titherington said.
The wider programme will be dominated by more than three miles of improved connections between green spaces, including upgraded access points in Penwortham, Lostock Hall and Walton-le-dale. Over four miles of the Leyland Loop cycle path will also be completed. These elements will take up the largest share of the budget, totalling £375,000.
£200,000 will be invested in Shruggs Wood and a rolling programme of refurbishment of the borough’s playgrounds will begin, with £175,000 invested in each of the facilities at Seven Stars, Leadale Green and Worden Park.
Welcoming the plans, the Conservative former cabinet member Phil Smith noted that the ruling Labour group was “talking like the green links [concept] was something that had just been invented”.
“Work has been going on for many years and I remember being almost laughed out of the chamber when I suggested building the biggest park in the North West at Central Park [in Bamber Bridge and Lostock Hall].”
That project is now on the list for the delivery of a masterplan over the next two years.
The green links schemes will be funded in part by contributions from housing developers under agreements to grant planning permission, as well as capital investment by the council.
A total of 34 projects have been identified, with 21 of them due to be completed in the current financial year.
Council leader Paul Foster said he had ordered more capacity to be introduced to ensure capital projects were not subject to the time slippage which they had been in the past.