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Council commits to planting almost 800 trees to commemorate coronavirus pandemic

Concerns were raised around plans to create areas of reflection from fruit trees to commemorate the coronavirus pandemic.

At a meeting of the climate change and sustainability committee on Wednesday, councillors agreed to the scheme which will see almost 800 trees planted in 13 parks across South Lanarkshire.

However, they felt it could be clearer that the project was not a series of individual memorials, rather a collective way to commemorate all those who have died from coronavirus and that an article published by the council could have been viewed as presumptuous.

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Council leader John Ross said the plans were “very fitting” and Liberal Democrat group leader, Councillor Robert Brown, felt it was “an absolutely great project”.

Parks in Rutherglen, Cambuslang, East Kilbride, Hamilton and Lanark are among those which will have trees planted in tribute to those who have died from coronavirus.

Biggar, Blantyre, Stonehouse and Strathaven are included in the plans which will see around 60 trees planted in each park.

Both Chatelherault and Calderglen Country Parks are also part of the plans.

Funding of £12,000 from the council’s Food Strategy Support Fund has been earmarked for the project.

Blantyre councillor Maureen Chalmers felt it could have been clearer that the areas of reflection would not include individual memorials.

She said: “I saw the council website article. People are already saying how do families get in touch with the council to let them know about their loved ones.

“Can we make sure that we get that really clear message out there about the memorial bit without it being an individual memorial?”

Independent group leader Margaret Cooper also passed on similar concerns from her colleague, Councillor David Watson.

She said: “I like the notion of the paper and the whole idea of it.

“However, in the article on the View we were really telling people that we were going to be doing something prior to a decision being taken.

“We were putting out a decision when one hadn’t been taken.

“Taking James Hamilton Heritage Park as an example, despite the council’s best efforts, it’s like walking around a cemetery because there are that many flowers tied to trees and the seats.

“That can be quite depressing for people.

“There are some concerns that we are calling them memorial trees and temptation is for people to drape them in something or put a plaque up.”

In response to their concerns, head of communication Tom Little said: “The article in the View made it very clear that these were not individual trees for individual sad deaths.

“They were a collective memory and no plaques etc would be attached to them.

“The article was very clear that a decision had not been taken. It made it clear that the decision would be taken by this committee and what the consequences of that decision would be.”

Head of facilities, Alistair McKinnon, added: “There has been community interest on how the council could recognise the loss of life due to COVID.

“The proposal also includes additional benefits including highlighting the importance of tree planting, increasing the level of tree canopy cover and it also offers carbon sequestration.

“Consideration was given to planting trees in each and every settlement across the council area.

Council commits to planting almost 800 trees to commemorate coronavirus pandemic

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“However, the view was reached that it would be more appropriate to concentrate planting with in a larger park setting and the number of trees to be planted in each location would provide a degree of scale and presence.

“On this basis, it was proposed to plant fruit trees in 11 district parks and our two country parks.

“We do not see the trees as being specific memorials. They are areas of reflection.

“Early indications suggest that we won’t be able to get fruit trees this financial year so it is likely the planting won’t be able to happen until 2022.

“This is just the start of a continuation of tree planting. We will be looking for other locations at a future date.”

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