NATURE lovers claim wildlife habitats are being destroyed by tree felling in Chester’s Grosvenor Park.
Restoration works on the city centre park started last month after Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) secured a £3.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
But the project includes the felling of some trees and the removal of shrubbery, prompting concerned park users to contact the Leader to express their dismay.
They claim the work has already had a damaging effect on wildlife.
One regular park visitor, who did not wish to be named, said: “I can’t believe what they are doing. They are cutting down perfectly healthy trees and I can already see the effect that it is having on wildlife in the middle of the city.
“I was walking through there the other day and the usual habitat where the moorhens live had been cut down and removed and they were wandering around with nowhere to go, not knowing what to do, with no cover for them. It’s just wrong.
“There isn’t an awful lot of green space in and around the city centre; just a whole lot of concrete. We should be preserving what we already have, not ripping it up and redesigning it so it looks nice and has a cafe and a children’s playground.
“The Grosvenor Park is an important area for conservation in the city, but now it seems as if nothing is sacred.”
The council said the lottery funding was being used to redesign the park with new walkways and amenities.
Maintenance and restoration work will be carried out on the Grade II listed features in the park, including the walls, arches and stonework.
Park user Gillian Mapp said: “All these trees and plants they are chopping down mean removing insect breeding and nesting sites, which will hit the bird populations hard. Why are they doing this?
“There wasn’t any consultation about whether anyone wanted the lottery grant, which as usual insists that the money is spent on certain things – in this case ‘infrastructure’.
“This seems to be another example of CWaC’s obsession with the ‘grand plan’ – instead of just looking after what is already there, they just get rid of it all and then move on, just as they did with the Gateway theatre site, the old bus station plans and the cinema.”
CWaC said the work being carried out had been agreed following consultation with arboricultural and ecological specialists.
The council said the project only involves the culling of diseased and self-seeding trees, and a small number of trees that would impede construction of the new walkway.
Council spokeswoman Shirley Wingfield said: “As part of the Heritage Lottery ‘Parks for People’ project, arboricultural and ecological specialists were consulted regarding areas of the park that were overgrown or had poor plant species.
“From this advice a number of diseased larger trees have been removed and some others have been removed to facilitate the construction and path works.
“It is this work that has been taking place over the last few weeks outside of bird nesting season. Suitable trees have been selected to attach additional bird and bat boxes later on during the project.
“The vegetation around the pond has been cleared to facilitate not only the repair of the pond retaining wall, but also to improve the water quality, which is currently extremely poor.
“More appropriate waterside vegetation will be planted and the water aerated to encourage more biodiversity.
“There will be widespread replanting of more appropriate tree and shrub species by the end of the project in spring 2014 to encourage native wildlife in the park.”