Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes has made an 11th-hour bid to save three large fig trees in Stewart Avenue before Transport for NSW starts work on widening the road on Sunday.
Cr Nelmes wrote to Transport Minister Andrew Constance on Monday asking him to delay the work in Birdwood Park, Newcastle West, and investigate designs which would preserve the trees.
The figs are slated to make way for a new slip lane for southbound motorists turning left into King Street.
The trees are listed as items of local significance and sit inside the council's Newcastle City Centre Heritage Conservation Area.
"Despite consultants engaged by Transport for NSW deeming the removal of these trees as having a 'negligible to low impact upon the heritage significance of the conservation area', our City of Newcastle heritage experts believe that the proposed works are likely to affect the heritage significance of the local heritage item and the heritage conservation area in a manner that is more than minor or inconsequential," Cr Nelmes said in the letter to Mr Constance.
Transport for NSW says on its website that work on the $1.4 million project will start on Sunday.
"A number of options were investigated, and we carefully considered the potential impact to the adjacent Birdwood Park," the website says.
"The selected design for the left-turn slip lane offers the required traffic efficiency benefits while minimising the impacts to trees in the park.
"We will be removing two large fig trees near the corner of the intersection and two smaller trees.
"The City of Newcastle planted a second row of fig trees in Birdwood Park some years ago in preparation for future road widening.
"We have been consulting with council about five replacement trees which will be planted along Stewart Avenue as part of the work."
The dispute over the trees evokes memories of one of the city's most celebrated protests, the 1973 "Battle of Birdwood", when demonstrators drafted in Abu, a circus elephant, to help stop council bulldozers clearing trees for roadworks in the park.
The council was embroiled in its own tree war a decade ago when it removed Laman Street's majestic figs.
City of Newcastle's West End Public Domain Plan, approved in 2018, retains the Birdwood Park figs now under threat as part of a redesigned "gateway" to the city's future central business district.
It includes an outdoor cafe, landscaping and improvements to Little Birdwood Park on the other side of King Street in front of Marketown shopping centre.
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