A ROW has broken out after council bosses forked out £180,000 for a tree-lined boulevard.
Sunderland City Council spent the cash importing and planting 58 mature trees from Holland, at the £11.8million St Mary’s Way re-alignment and new square development.
Council bosses insist the city centre scheme will provide an essential focal point for the city and said the trees had created “an instant impact”.
But Tory leaders have hit out, branding it a waste of money.
Conservative opposition councillor Peter Wood queried the situation with town hall bosses to be told the trees, grown in a specialist nursery in Holland, will cost on average £3,100 each.
The mature trees – which are up to 20 years old – include cherry, maple, lime, plane, sweet gum and dawn redwood.
“They are expensive trees – £180,000 is a substantial sum of money,” Coun Wood told the Echo.
“And the taxpayers, I believe, will raise an eyebrow or two that the council can find this amount of money to spend.
“We’ve been given some very elaborate, interesting names of different species of trees.
“I think we all need to go down there and familiarise ourselves with these trees. For this amount of money, everybody has got to go and have a good look to see what they are getting for the money.
“I’m surprised to see the cost in times of austerity, that the council has the money to spend on trees.”
Cabinet secretary Mel Speding hit back and referred to Tory councillors George Howe and Bob Francis, criticising the council earlier this month for the planned removal of six trees from allotments in Fulwell.
“It was only a few weeks ago the Tories were complaining that we were cutting trees down,” Coun Speding said. “Now they are complaining that we are planting them.”
He also defended the decision to import them, saying a contract was put out to tender, but no UK nursery was able to supply trees of this size.
The nursery in Holland that supplied the trees also supplied all the ones for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
To date, 43 of the 58 trees have been planted, and the council says that additional work has gone into their ground conditions to ensure they last for centuries to come.
The new square and surrounding streets are to include more trees, including dogwood, ironwood, cherry, tulip tree, Scots pine and cedar.