This week the VSBA (Victorian School Building Authority) finally released more detailed plans and the arborist report for the Beaumaris Secondary College.
Finally it was acknowledged that the community is concerned about how the construction of OUR SCHOOL is progressing.
Finally we would be allowed to see the process that has been undertaken in assessing these trees, and then by the project architects and landscape architects to design around those of significance.
This plan is dated 8 November 2016. That is 2 weeks after the community protest and 2 weeks after the proposed tree removals were to begin.
When compared to the poor quality plans released prior to the protest, this new plan now shows at least 20 additional trees to be removed.
Since the protest the VSBA has had a second arborist assess the site and also the findings of the original arborist.
The result is that now more trees are deemed necessary for removal.
This is a startling result and when asked about these assessments we are told that the trees to be removed are unhealthy or structurally unsound and could pose a danger some time in the future. These are trees that have been continually assessed over the years while part of the school grounds and have not been considered a problem.
What is worse, is that many of these trees are in open space areas and do not impact the current design in any way.
Who has decided that these trees should go?
The arborist report is a 46 page document that includes tables of trees proposed for removal and for retention. What is confusing is that 17 trees classified with a High retention rating are proposed for removal. 3 more trees of High significance are then assessed as unsuitable for retention.
The arborist has given 20 trees a High Retention Rating or Significance and then suggests they be removed.
The arborist report is also overlayed on the architect’s design. These trees have not been assessed independently of the design.
The architects have decided what trees are to be removed – Not the arborist.
The VSBA has treated our community with disdain. Trained, educated and experienced professionals who are giving up their own time are being ignored.
A landscape architect representing the values of the community was told that they probably weren’t required at a meeting to discuss the trees. A landscape architect who has 10+ years of experience and who is trained to address ALL ASPECTS of a project. That includes knowledge not just of horticulture and design, but also of arboriculture, ecologies, engineering, construction and urban planning.
A landscape architect who understands that proper assessment of a site, it’s local environment, ecologies and cultural aspects is the first step in the design process. Who believes in working with existing trees and embracing them as part of the overall design.
The Beaumaris environment was not considered as part of this design.
Throughout this issue, the VSBA has hung their hat on the fact that they have a landscape architect’s plan that proposes 5000+ additional plants going on the site.
What they have appears to be open spaces designed by an architect and plant selection by a landscape designer.
Our school and its open space has not been designed by a landscape architect. An architect who is an expert in the building and structures – but is not trained in open space design, horticulture, arboriculture or ecology – has decided which trees are to be removed and where new plants need to go.
This is not the way to a good design outcome.