Cambridge City Council are proposing to fell five mature Leyland cypresses on Empty Common, the area containing allotments to south of Brooklands road by Hobson’s Brook. Already we have seen the highly controversial felling of many trees along the brook in this area on the grounds of improving the biodiversity of the watercourse though letting more light get to it.
Explaining why the trees are set to be felled the council’s principle tree officer, Diana Oviatt-Ham, has written: “the trees do not require felling on arboricultural grounds. The trees were considered inappropriate for the location”.
Some allotment holders are in favour of the fellings as the trees remove moisture from the ground and cast shade on the allotments which reduce their productivity. There have been objections to the proposed felling including a petition containing 282 signatures. It is this petition, and the fact “Two objectors visited the office frequently and campaigned in the local press for the retention of the leylandii” which caused council officers to halt the work, though this happened only after one of the five trees had been reduced to a “totem pole” (That’s how the council’s report describes it). One of the campaigners has previously commented on my website about the proposals. The Executive Councillor for Arts and Recreation, Julie Smith has now been asked to make a decision on the fate of the trees, in turn she has asked for the advice of the Council’s Planning Committee which is to meet on the 4th of March 2009.
The report to the planning committee appears to take no account of the fact mature trees are being felled, to be replaced with new trees. The report states the proposed work will result in: “The short term loss of 5 trees, but long term improvement in the environment” and “whilst the Leyland cypress filter and absorb pollutants, the new deciduous trees will perform this function better” however there is no indication of the number of years considered “short term” or the timescale for the new trees to become as good as the current trees at providing a barrier to traffic.
I think this is an interesting development, we have seen huge objections to the city council’s programs of tree felling which have repeatedly been devised and approved by officers with no input from elected councillors. It is excellent that, though late, Julie Smith now appears to be getting a grip of her responsibilities. It will be interesting to see if she adopts a similar process before the trees which it is proposed to fell on Jesus Green and Midsummer Common are lost.
I am very impressed with, and enormously in favour of, the new planting in the area which is to include five replacement native, deciduous trees, an additional tree on to screen the view to the road and three fruit trees, an oak tree and 30m of native hedge on the eastern boundary of the allotments. I think fruit trees are clearly appropriate for the environs of allotments, and welcome the native planting particularly the proposed oak, planting a new tree specifically to screen the view from to the road when existing trees are doing that effectively appears irrational though.
Healthy Trees Already Cut Down by Hobson’s Brook:
This article may be updated in light of developments.