Businesses ‘frustrated’ over tree U-turn

Framing Plus owner Chris McDonald points out a stump outside his business, adjoining a pedestrian...
Framing Plus owner Chris McDonald points out a stump outside his business, adjoining a pedestrian crossing on State Highway 1, Milton, where a tree was removed about five years ago due to visibility issues. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
Milton business owners say they are "frustrated and deflated" by an apparent council U-turn regarding new trees on the town’s main street.

Last week, the Clutha District Council reviewed changes to concept plans for an upgrade to Milton’s main street, during which it discussed reinstating street-side tree plantings in the town’s business quarter.

During a lengthy consultation process that began in 2020, main street business owners have repeatedly raised concerns about issues the proposed trees could cause.

These include reduced visibility and safety for pedestrians and drivers; leaf drop blocking drains and making paths slippery; and roots lifting paving and road seal.

Framing Plus owner Chris McDonald said he could not understand why the council was planning to reinstate trees in Milton’s busiest pedestrian section, given it had removed trees from outside his business less than a decade ago.

"I had felt we were making good progress talking with the council and designers about some of the issues and how we could address them, but it now feels like they’re simply ignoring what we’ve said, once again.

"There are issues with visibility and traffic safety, and effects on parking. We’ve tried to find a compromise, but any solution has to leave the business owners happy."

He criticised the council for putting planning before consultation.

"Consultation then design would have been more logical, and would have meant we weren’t now in conflict with the designer’s vision."

During last Thursday’s meeting in Balclutha, Rough & Milne Landscape Architects director Brooke Mitchell told councillors he felt revisions to the plan had diluted its effect.

"We believe the loss of trees has impacted the overall balance of the design, and we’d like to reinstate them somehow," Mr Mitchell said.

Toko Trailers founder Alvin Stephen yesterday said he was "frustrated and deflated" by the news trees might once again be under consideration.

"As originally planned, a tree outside our workshop would stop people parking with their trailers, reduce visibility for trucks leaving the yard, and cause rust damage to our trailers through leaf fall.

"I commend the council’s plans to make improvements to Milton and, in the right place, I like trees; but not in the middle of a busy highway."

Mr Stephen said he had written to the council to register his concerns.

Preparatory work on the $5 million main street upgrade is expected to begin shortly.

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