Great Portland Street Tree Stage Launched

Monday 21 September 2009

The launch of the Great Portland Street Stage of the W1W Street Tree Initiative was a big success – with over 50 guests from all sections of the local community participating at the event. As a result of the meeting, pledging for additional trees has now been accelerated. Sally Tooth spoke for the Westminster Tree Trust – outlining the progress on the proposed plantings, highlighting a possible grant from Groundwork London for trees on Weymouth Street, and extended thanks to those who had made these achievements possible.

Paul Akers, Westminster’s Arboricultural Manager, discussed the possible tree choices and held a most informative Q&A session including much needed advice on how to care for the trees planted during Phase I of this initiative. Marc Chapman of Transerve / Westminster’s Transport Department kindly updated the participants on the progress of the repaving works on Great Portland Street. These works are expected to be completed in the new few weeks.

The meeting also discussed the following points:

  • The positive role of trees on the Georgian Streets of Marylebone and the splendid results of the plantings on Harley Street and Devonshire Place
  • The calming effect the new trees on Hallam Street have already provided
  • The possibility of repaving the north end of Great Portland Street to integrate it further with the rest of the road. And the tree line on the east side of the street be completed as part of these improvements
  • The forthcoming improvement to Great Portland Street, including the opening of Pizza Express and the new frontage of The Portland Hospital at the North end of the street.
  • The welcomed addition of the two new Westminster Car Club bays on the corner of Weymouth and Great Portland Street

This pleasant and productive meeting was made possible through the generous hospitality of Iberica Restaurant for which the Initiative is most grateful. It is expected that the local community will continue to enthusiastically support these local developments.

For more detail regarding the various presentations please see the text below.

A copy of the latest edition (Nos 18 & 19) of the BBC’s Broadcasting House Community Newsletter covering our progress has also been made also available.

Over 50 representatives from Westminster Council, Westminster Tree Trust, local residents associations, businesses, landlords and Marylebone Association joined the meeting

Westminster Tree Trust’s Address read by Sally Tooth (Hon Secretary) on behalf of by Julian Maslinski (Chairman)

Paul Akers, Westminster’s Arboricultural Manager, answers questions from the floor about urban tree planting in London

Marc Chapman, of Westminster Transerve, provides an update on progress of the repaving works in preparation for the new trees on Great Portland Street.

___________________________________________________________________

W1W Street Tree Initiative Meeting (Launch Stage III, Progress Update Stage II)

Presentation

Iberica Restaurant

Monday 21 September 2009

Councillor, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted that you have been able join us for the launch of the Great Portland Street Stage and an update on the Weymouth Street Stage of our local street tree initiative

Joining us are Cllr Harvey Marshall, Sally Tooth, Honorary Secretary of Westminster Tree Trust, who will be saying a few words on behalf of Julian Maslinski (who apologises for not being with us today), Paul Akers, Westminster’s Head Arboriculturalist, who has kindly agreed to provide us with an update on our progress and Marc Chapman who is representing Transerve / Westminster’s Transport Department who will brief us on the repaving of Great Portland Street.

As observers (at least at this stage) representatives of the Portman Estate, Howard de Walden Estate and Great Portland Estate – I am most grateful that you have made time to join us especially to discuss the role that trees have on the Georgian Streets of Marylebone.

We have successfully completed our first stage of the initiative — trees now run the entire length of Hallam Street right up to the new BBC buildings.

The gathering marks the launch of the Great Portland Street stage which together with other improvements has real potential to make the street very much of a destination rather than the noisily motor thoroughfare it has been in the past.

New and remodelled restaurants, redevelopment of apartment blocks, arrival of new shops – notably Sainsbury’s, and the forthcoming refacing of the Portland Hospital’s east-side street frontage will all combine with the street trees to produce a result which is far greater than the sum of each of its individual parts.

So this is perhaps a rare and unique opportunity to do more than just add trees on this street. It is an opportunity to discuss what other practical factors would leave Great Portland Street best suited for those that live and work in its vicinity and also best presented for the 2012 Olympics.

I am interested in what can be done to improve the north end of Great Portland … which is not straight forward because of current pavements widths… I am hopeful that a working solution can be found so that this section of the street can become fully integrated with what is being achieved now.

For Weymouth Street, the fund pledging from businesses and residents for the east end of the street is complete. And we will be shortly updated on progress to plant trees on this street.

It goes without saying that we are very grateful for the support we have received from Westminster Council,

  • especially from the Transport Department for the widening of the pavements this will make the tree planting possible, the Council’s contribution to the trees and necessary infrastructure, Cllr Harvey Marshall for all of his efforts to make these transformations possible, Paul Akers, Westminster’s Tree Man whose team has been key for the delivery of greener Marylebone
  • from the Westminster Tree Trust, notably Julian Maslinski’s tireless work to bring trees to our Borough and in particular to our side of Marylebone
  • from the residents of a majority of local blocks who have already contributed energy and donated to this popular cause
  • and last but not least the area businesses who have been equally supportive with resources and funding

We are very happy to enjoy such support. I also want to thank Marcos and Javier of Iberica Restaurant for their most generous hospitality which has made this meeting possible. These pleasant surroundings and fabulous food further underline the community’s commitment to maximise the potential of this initiative to improve our shared environment.

To conclude, before passing the stage to Sally Tooth of the Westminster Tree Trust, we are here to call for

  1. confirmation of local support from all sides to Westminster Council, and The Tree Trust for these endeavours
  2. financial support to the Westminster Tree Trust for additional trees for Stages II and III of this local initiative
  3. contributions to the discussion of what other practical factors can be added, be it provision of bins, benches, perhaps even a taxi rank to complete the job on GPS
  4. to be ready to sign petitions, if necessary, to ensure that these trees (especially those planned for Weymouth Street) are planted.

Thank you again for joining us today.

Sally, may I ask you to add a few words?

___________________________________________________________________

Westminster Tree Trust’s Address

by Julian Maslinski (Chairman)

as kindly read by Sally Tooth

Councillor, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome and thank you very much for coming. It is, of course, most encouraging to see so many people here who either live or work in London W1W and are committed to the planting of trees – as well as a number of other interested parties and well wishers.

To see how trees can so vastly improve the streetscape, one need look no further than Hallam Street, where, earlier this year, as Phase 1 of the W1W Tree Planting Initiative, 40 Chanticleer pear trees were planted. In due course, they will grow into mature trees, not only beautifying the area with splendid greenery, but also promote bird life, improve air quality, help to reduce noise in a heavy traffic corridor and provide shade from the summer sun to pedestrians – in other words helping to create an even more attractive place to live, within the built environment.

From a commercial angle too, Westminster Tree Trust feels that trees greatly enhance the scene in W1W, and judging by their generous support, this view is shared by the local business community.

The W1W Tree Planting Initiative, of which Hallam Street was Phase 1, originated in the very heart of the community – residents and businesses – then joined by Westminster Tree Trust – a registered charity run entirely by volunteers – and Westminster City Council, all working together in partnership.

That same partnership is now addressing Phase 2 of the Initiative, Weymouth Street and Phase 3, Great Portland Street, New Cavendish Street and Devonshire Street. These are, of course, subject to all necessary local authority consents.

We are extremely grateful to Martin Low, Director of Transportation and his team at Westminster City Council, as well as, in particular, Marc Chapman of Transerve, for their cooperation and flexibility in bringing forward by one year the Great Portland Street tree plantings, and thereby integrating them with their excellent project to improve the pavements there.

The W1W Tree Planting Initiative would not be possible without extremely generous donations from the local community, a contribution from the Tree Trust, together with financial support from the City Council. Recently, Westminster Tree Trust heard from Groundwork London, who work closely with the Greater London Authority, that they are interested in making a grant to the Trust towards the proposed Phase 2 of the Initiative in Weymouth Street. Also, through Groundwork London has come a request from the Director General of the Forestry Commission to carry out a ceremonial tree planting in W1W, hopefully this coming November.

Very special thanks are due to Mark Gazaleh, from whom we have just heard. Mark is a local resident and extremely able co-ordinator of the W1W Tree Planting Initiative, who has given a huge amount of time to the project right from the early stages. His talent for bringing people together and considerable communication skills generally, have, throughout, been a major factor in our success. He is indeed an environmental champion.

Also, we are most grateful to Kerstin Bowers of Ridgeford Properties and The Langham London for all their support.

Last, but most certainly not least, we would not be here today at all without the enormous amount of work and expertise by Paul Akers from the City Council Tree Section. Thank you very much indeed Paul, especially for your great enthusiasm and commitment to tree planting in W1W, which will benefit the local community for many decades to come. It is always a pleasure to work with you.

In my view, this is one of the most significant and beneficial projects that Westminster Tree Trust has been involved with since it was founded in 1982.

May I now hand you back to Mark, but before so doing I would like to thank both Marcos and Javier of the Iberica Restaurant for their most generous hospitality.

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