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Leszczyny must disappear? Apparent consultations in Poznan

23 of August '22

We are listening to the voice of experts," announced the Poznań authorities, and, despite the objections of residents, they still want to remove a row of old Turkish hazel trees from the city center. The snag is that, as the local media determined, the magistrate cut out comments unfavorable to itself from the experts' opinions . It also arranged a delayed public discussion, which showed how the authorities disregarded dialogue with residents.

The plans to remove more than twenty forty-year-old hazel trees on December 27 Street are due to the next stage of the reconstruction and revaluation of the main streets of the downtown area - the so-called " Center Project. We first wrote about it in mid-July; since then, two public discussions have been held, and the City Hall has asked for opinions from greenery experts, including the recently-established Environmental and Climate Protection Advisory Board (we wrote about it here). In addition, more than 12,000 Poznań residents signed a petition against the cutting, prepared by the Freedom Square Association.

to make it pretty

The issue is appalling, because the hazel trees are to be replaced by new plane trees growing in... the same line as the existing specimens. All this to make them fit in with the second planned row of plane trees, which does not yet exist. Protesting naturalists, however, point out that trees that have endured harsh urban conditions for several decades are more valuable than the new more vulnerable saplings. They also criticize the approach of planners, who are primarily concerned with an "even" visual effect. True, the hazel trees are growing over underground utilities, but - as the designers admitted after pressure from the protesters - these will be disconnected, and new pipes will be laid elsewhere. The roots of the hazel trees will therefore not come into collision with them.

zielen 27 grudnia poznan wizualizacja

visualization of 27 Grudnia Street near Okrąglak; double row of plane trees visible, which will replace the existing row of hazel trees

design: Studio ADS, source: Poznan City Hall

So why the replacement? During a heated discussion arranged by protesters in July, city representatives tried a variety of vague explanations. Among other things, they pointed to the need to implement the concept of architects from Studio ADS, which was selected in a 2015 competition (covering the main streets of the center). However, firstly, in the case of December 27 Street, it was an ideological concept, and secondly, there were to be extensive consultations with residents and specialists on the detailed solutions. This would help to correct the assumptions on an ongoing basis and respond to critical comments after the implementation of the first stage of reconstruction (the middle section of Swiety Marcin Street, 2019).

keep, but rather elsewhere

zieleń 27 Grudnia Poznań leszczyny tureckie

hazel trees on 27 Grudnia Street in Poznań to be replaced by new plane trees

photo: Jakub Głaz

However, the consultation was very limited in scope and poorly communicated. Even this summer, the city was unable to show the current solutions in a clear and understandable way (this included the controversy over the shifting of the streetcar route, interfering with the crowns of the mature plane trees across the street). The lack of well-prepared discussion and information was to be criticized in their opinion by specialists from the Consultative Council. Poznan's Gazeta Wyborcza found, however, that the city cut the criticism of, among other things, the consultation from their document. It only presented the Council's position, which is salomonic in spirit, according to which
The following should be pursued

preserve as many existing healthy trees as possible, especially if they do not collide with above-, on- and underground infrastructure. In case of collision with infrastructure, consider: correcting the course of the network, assessing the possibility of preserving the tree during earthworks, replanting the tree (...). If none of the above is possible - cut down the tree and compensatory planting.

The magistrate also presented an arborist consultation commissioned from a Krakow-based expert, landscape architect Dr. Wojciech Bobek. The city portal reported that his assessment was unequivocal:

Leaving the trees there - even assuming that the City would abandon the street renovation altogether - would be tiring them and prolonging their faster or slower agony.

absent president

This conclusion was reached despite the fact that the expert opinion showed that some of the hazel trees are in good condition. Moreover, both opinions were announced by the magistrate a few hours before the second public discussion on August 17. That debate, arranged at the express request of residents, was held, by the way, with a delay of several weeks. In July, the city had declared a much earlier date. The protesters were therefore put almost before accomplished facts. Thus, there were frequent statements about the pointlessness of further discussion and criticism of the city authorities, who are getting closer and closer to the arrogance of the ossified team of the previous mayor Ryszard Grobelny (ousted from power by voters in 2014). This is hardly an exaggeration. Indeed, Jacek Jaskowiak, who is in power today, announced in July that - due to "other obligations" - he would not take part in the second debate on trees, although... its date had not yet been set at the time.

Most likely, then, the city and the designer will realize their intention - the hazel trees will disappear from December 27 Street. Especially since construction work is expected to begin in early September. At best, some of the hazel trees will survive, after replanting, in other places. However, it will be interesting to see how the city's actions will be evaluated by the European Commission. The Freedom Square Association has asked it in a letter to audit whether the city of Poznań is spending the EU grant for the Center Project and whether its implementation is in line with EU goals. Residents, on the other hand, will give their assessment to the team in power today in the upcoming local elections.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast