Tree felling and pruning planned as part of demolition of Preston's Old Tram Bridge

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Dozens of trees will either have to be removed or cut back in order to carry out the work needed to replace the Old Tram Bridge between Preston and South Ribble.

The structure - which links Avenham Park and Penwortham - has been closed for almost five years after an inspection found that it was at risk of sudden collapse.

However, it was not until Preston City Council was awarded cash from the government’s Levelling Up Fund in January this year that building a replacement bridge became a realistic prospect. It is expected that the design of the new cross-river connection will be unveiled early in the new year when planning permission is sought for it.

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Before that, plans have already been lodged for the tree changes that the project will involve. According to an application submitted to the city council’s own planning department by the Bowland Tree Consultancy, “tree removals and pruning” will be required “to facilitate access [to] and subsequent demolition of [the] existing Old Tram Bridge”.

Trees close to the current bridge will be affected by its demolition (image via Preston City Council planning portal)Trees close to the current bridge will be affected by its demolition (image via Preston City Council planning portal)
Trees close to the current bridge will be affected by its demolition (image via Preston City Council planning portal)
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Within the boundaries of Avenham Park - and to the north of the bridge - four trees are slated for removal, while two will be pruned back in order to create a two-metre clearance from the crumbling bridge so that a crane can be positioned in the location.

South of the bridge, seven individual trees are set to be felled, along with part of two tree groups. In the same area, three standalone trees will be pruned, while seven groups of trees will also be cut back. A six-metre clearance zone is needed in that location for a crane and other plant machinery that will be involved in the work.

An entire group of five trees will also have to be cut down north of The Cawsey.

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A new 'Old Tram Bridge' is on the wayA new 'Old Tram Bridge' is on the way
A new 'Old Tram Bridge' is on the way

In a consultation response to the proposal, the city council’s Avenham and Miller Park manager says that the trees identified for removal on the northern side of the bridge are “of moderate quality”, but warns that protection must be provided to the trees and root systems in the vicinity of the proposed felling.

On the southern side, four of the trees due for removal are categorised either as being unsuitable for retention or of “low quality” with an expected lifespan of only around 10 years - and the park manager does not object to them being cut down.

However, concern is raised about one of the southern groups of trees where felling is proposed, as the specimens are considered to be “trees of high quality”. It is queried whether their removal could be “mitigated elsewhere on site or close by”, but the manager notes that a solution for “retention or remedial action” cannot be produced until the extent of the work is known.

According to a report accompanying the application, the group concerned includes lime, beech, sycamore, wych elm and ash trees.

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Meanwhile, the authority’s acting tree officer says that he has no objection to any of the pruning work, provided that it is carried out to expected standards.

In a progress update issued in November about the Old Tram Bridge project Preston City Council chief executive Adirian Phillips said: “There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes with various partners, contractors and specialists to finalise the design and the planning application required for a replacement tram bridge.

“We are at a stage where we will be able to reveal the final design proposals in the coming weeks and we hope the people of Preston are happy with what we propose.

“We appreciate that the Preston city region has been without its bridge for a long time now, but through Preston’s award of Levelling Up funding from the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities, we are now able to bring back the bridge into use for the benefit of our communities.

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"It won’t be replicating the existing design and structure and it will be attractive and sympathetic to its surroundings. It has been important to get it right as the bridge not only has to look good, but it has to stand the test of time and serve our communities for the next 120 years with minimum environmental impact. We look forward to sharing our plans with you very soon.”

It was estimated in 2021 that a replacement bridge would cost around £6m. Preston was awarded £20m from the Levelling Up Fund, but that total has to cover the costs of a raft of projects that made up the city’s bid for the cash, including the controversial football plans for Ashton Park, upgrades to Moor Park and Waverley Park and several active travel initiatives.