Calls for return of Laman Street green arch

COMMUNITY members who opposed the removal of the Laman Street fig trees have given their verdict on the future of the street, and have insisted that Newcastle City Council replicate the felled cathedral canopy.

Greens lord mayoral candidate John Sutton, in his submission to the council’s Laman Street concept designs, suggested holding a ‘‘community ideas competition’’ to suggest ways to commemorate the campaign to save the trees.

‘‘Even at this point council must recognise that the community campaign to save the trees was one of the most significant local community campaigns in the city’s recent history and that the future development of the area must, as part of any genuine commitment to recognising the heritage values of that space, appropriately commemorate that campaign,’’ MrSutton wrote.

The council has proposed a $1.8 million redesign of Laman Street. The draft plan includes paving, street trees, underground vaults for the trees’ roots, street furniture, kerb and guttering and lighting.

Hills figs are suggested for planting to replace those cut down in January and February, but other species are canvassed in the documents. Public comment closed on Friday.

Both Mr Sutton and Save Our Figs member Caity Raschke said that 18 Hill’s figs should be replanted.

In her submission, Dr Raschke said the replacement trees should be as large as possible.

‘‘Putting in small trees will mean that it will be 50 years before the street looks beautiful again,’’ she wrote.

‘‘It is not good enough to expect Newcastle people to wait decades before the cathedral arch is created from small trees.’’

Dr Raschke said the street should be made pedestrian-only, and that it should not encroach into Civic Park or the Memorial Grove.

Both submissions rounded on the council for the removal of the 80-year-old figs.

Dr Raschke wrote that she was lodging her submission, despite having ‘‘no expectation that anything that the community suggests will be taken into account’’.

Mr Sutton said many people would be reluctant to comment on the plan.

‘‘The need to ‘rehabilitate’ Laman Street has arisen primarily from council’s own mismanagement of the area, and especially its recent unnecessary destruction of the majestic cathedral arch canopy formed by the former giant Hill’s figs in Newcastle’s cultural heart.’’

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