Poll: Borough council’s metal tree project in Bury St Edmunds- costing £15,000 - is ‘a waste of money’
11:59 04 April 2014
Two metal trees costing about £15,000 which are being installed to improve the look of a town centre street have been branded a “waste of money”.
The 3.6metre tall art installations for St Andrew’s Street South in Bury St Edmunds have been rubberstamped by St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Bury Area Working Party.
A number of councillors have criticised the plans, and now the TaxPayers’ Alliance has described it as “ridiculous” so much is being spent on the trees without residents being consulted.
It comes as St Edmundsbury Borough Council is axing the award-winning Tourist Information Centre on Angel Hill, saving £70,000 a year, and replacing it with a network of advice points.
But a borough council spokeswoman said: “The public are not footing any part of the bill [for the trees]. The Arc developer Centros Millar made Section 106 contributions earmarked for the installation of public art for Bury St Edmunds and other Arc-related investment, which cannot be used for anything else. If they are not used, they are forfeited and the developer retains the funding.”
Independent councillor Trevor Beckwith, who has described the metal trees as a “waste of money” as well as looking “daft,” said: “But that’s still not an excuse just to spend it on anything.”
He added: “It’s all public money when said and done. We don’t have money for a dog bin or litter bin, but we have money for tin trees.”
Alan Day, 73, from Bury St Edmunds, who was passing through St Andrew’s Street South, agreed it was a “waste of money”.
He said: “You just want a nice, clear thoroughfare. That’s what you need.”
And Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s ridiculous that so much has been spent on an art installation without asking residents if it was a good use of their money.
“The council must be more transparent, especially given that the cost of the ‘trees’ is about 20 families’ council tax bill for the year.”
Councillor Robert Everitt, cabinet member for the town on the borough council and chairman of the Bury Area Working Party, said there was a “bit of a time constraint” as far as public consultation was concerned and mentioned non-council schemes around the town which had not involved public consultation.
He said “If we were to use modern art that’s not everybody’s cup of tea so trees with lights on them seemed to be a half-way house between modern art and [real] trees and that seemed to fit the bill really.”
He added: “No matter what we put there, there will always be somebody who didn’t like whatever it was that was being put there.”
The council is working with local firm Designs in Metal on the project.
The stainless steel trees will be installed in June on build-outs at the Central Walk and Market Thoroughfare crossing points.
Audrey Horton, 80, from Bury St Edmunds, said: “I think I could have designed a better one. I certainly prefer real trees, but I take the point about the roots because they are a nuisance.”
Will Anderson, 20, from Bury St Edmunds, said: “It’s nice and all, but it could probably be spent on other things really. What’s the good of having two metal trees? Couldn’t they have put that into schools or something?”
On the design, he added: “I don’t think it would look out of place.”
Gloria Joyce, from Bury St Edmunds and who works at the Fast-Stitch shop in St Andrew’s Street South, said the trees were “brilliant”.
“I think it’s great. It brings a little bit of character to here. I think it’s really good. We want two either side.”
Sarah Cox, 45, from Barrow, said: “It seems like quite a lot of money for a couple of metal trees which could be better spent elsewhere, but it would brighten it up round here.”
She added: “It very modern like the rest of the development. I like it better than the Saint Edmund sculpture on the roundabout [at Risbygate Street].”