Jesus Green and Midsummer Common Tree Planting Consultation Farce


Sunday, November 21st, 2010. 7:44pm


Top: Proposals for tree works on Midsummer Common currently being consulted on. Bottom: Proposals taken to the West Central Area Committee on 23 September and approved with exception of the lowest four trees.

Top: Proposals for tree works on Midsummer Common currently being consulted on. Bottom: Proposals taken to the West Central Area Committee on 23 September and approved with exception of the lowest four trees.

On Friday the 19th of November notices appeared on Jesus Green and Midsummer common announcing a consultation, under the city council’s tree protocol, on council’s proposed felling, pollarding, transplanting and new planting of trees on two green spaces.

The city council has a webpage on the proposals at:

http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/content/consultations/midsummer-common-and-jesus-green-tree-replacement-proposals.en

I am concerned that the proposals being put out to consultation are different from those approved by councillors. Spot the difference in the plans shown to the right! Also the proposals being consulted on do not fully represent the council’s plans, in particular some, but not all, new tree planting is shown and the plans associated with the consultation do not show the entire area where new planting is proposed.

In response to the announcement of the consultation I have sought some clarification from the council:

Dear Cambridge City Council,

I am writing to seek some clarification on the current consultation on the tree works proposed for Midsummer Common and Jesus Green.

  1. The plans associated with this current consultation on only cover certain areas of the green spaces; the North West section of Jesus Green and the North East section of Midsummer Common. This is despite the scheme being consulted on being described as the one approved for implementation by West/Central Area Committee on 23 September 2010. The proposals approved by that committee included tree works outside of those areas. eg. New planting around the Midsummer Common toilets, planting along the paths on Butt Green, planting on the south side of Jesus Green, replacing trees on the south eastern stretch of the Jesus Green Plane Tree Avenue.
  2. It appears that not all proposed new tree planting within the areas shown is indicated on the plans associated with the current consultation. For example the three proposed new black poplars to the east of tree 144 are not shown. Have these been dropped from the proposals, are the plans being consulted on incomplete or is there another explanation?
  3. The whole south edge of Midsummer Common is not shown on the plans associated with this current consultation. The plans for this area have not been publicised. It isn’t clear what the position is at the moment with respect to this area. I note one new tree is now proposed south of tree 143, to the river-side of the North Terrace to Cutter Ferry bridge path. This is well outside “Area D”; the area on which the West Central Area Committee did not come to a decision in public but decided to consult immediate neighbours. Three of the proposed new silver limes have been moved away from the allotments, further into the open space, without explanation.
  4. A minor point; but the prior to the West/Central area committee only one tree was to be transplanted; the proposals currently being consulted on show three trees to be moved.

Based on all the above points I think it is highly misleading to describe the content of the plans currently out for consultation as being what was: “approved for implementation by West/Central Area Committee on 23 September 2010″.

What I would suggest is publication of the complete plan of all the proposed tree-works on Jesus Green and Midsummer Common and re-starting the consultation process then so it can be concluded as soon as possible. If there are any intended changes since the very well attended special 23 September West Central Area committee I would suggest highlighting these and explaining who has made those changes and why.

Lastly I note the current consultation while on the city council website, is not linked from the “Tree works schedules” page where all previous consultations under the tree protocol have been listed:

http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/content/planning-and-building-control/historic-environment-and-trees/trees-and-tree-works/tree-works-schedules.en

Cllr Cantrill has been stubbornly refusing to include new planting in the consultation; at two successive West Central Area committee meetings he has denied new planting needs to be consulted on and says it is not covered by the council’s tree protocol. Judge for yourself – see section 9 of Cambridge City Council’s tree protocol which is titled “Tree Planting”, section 9.2.1 states: “Where trees are to be planted where none have been planted previously, or the proposals are for major planting as part of the
long-term renewal of a landscape, the Council will undertake consultations.”

At the last full council meeting I sought to use the public question slot to ask:

Will new major tree planting schemes be subject to consultation, as required by S.9.1.2 of the council’s tree protocol?

However following a discussion with the Mayor and Council Leader officers informed me my question was not in-order.

I might not have got very far in any-case; I’ve twice experienced Cllr Cantrill refuse to answer questions I have put to him using the public speaking slot at council meetings. At the October 2010 West Central area committee he refused to explain slippage in the timetable for getting the tree works on Midsummer Common and Jesus Green underway (councillors conspired not to minute the timetable he had committed to delivering, and they had approved at the previous meeting). The previous occasion was when I asked why he was responsible for harassing innocent students through the courts for council tax they were not liable for.

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12 comments/updates on “Jesus Green and Midsummer Common Tree Planting Consultation Farce

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I raised this at the North Area Committee. Cllr McGovern reported that as a nearby resident he had been consulted by post. The plans he was sent covered the whole of each open space.

    Cllr McGovern agreed something appears to have gone wrong.

    The chair of the north area committee promised to ensure my email seeking clarification gets a response rapidly before the consultation ends.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve received a response from the council which does not really address the questions:

    Dear Mr Taylor,

    Many thanks for your request for more information on the Jesus Green /
    Midsummer Common Tree Protocol consultation and for your continued
    interest in the project.

    The current consultation only relates to the tree work which falls
    under the tree protocol procedure, as such the plans only illustrate the
    trees proposed to be replaced, transplanted or pollarded. The scheme as
    a whole has already been through public consultation and as you are
    aware was approved for implementation by West Central Area Committee in
    September. The exception to this was the area to the east of Midsummer
    Common, which West Central Area Committee requested further consultation
    be carried out with residents of North Terrace and Brunswick Cottages.
    This work is ongoing and a decision on its outcome is expected to be
    requested from Ward Councillors and the Chair of West/Central in early
    December in line with the Committee decision.

    I hope this clarifies the situation for you, but please let me know if
    you require further information.

    Regards
    Andy Preston

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    Having viewed some of the on-tree notices I was surprised to see them claim all the river-side willows have previously been pollarded. I can not see any evidence of previous pollarding on some of the trees; I wonder how long ago they were last pollarded.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have responded to the consultation writing:

    I am writing to respond to the current consultation on the Midsummer Common and Jesus Green tree works.

    During the consultation period I have, via a number of routes, sought an explanation from the council as to:

    * Why the plans being consulted on are not exactly as approved by the West/Central Area committee despite the consultation notices claiming them to be as-approved by that committee.
    * Why some new planting, but not other new planting is included.
    * Why plans of only certain areas of each green space have been included in the consultation documents despite tree works being proposed in areas not shown on the plans.

    While I have had responses, both from Cllr Cantrill speaking at the Jesus Green Association AGM, and from a council officer by email, the questions I raised have not been addressed. I believe the consultation, has been highly misleading on the grounds it was incomplete and the fact it was incomplete was not made clear.

    I note that section nine of the city council’s tree protocol requires consultation on new tree planting and the consultation I am responding to is, according to the notices, on the whole scheme as approved by the West/Central Area Committee on the 23rd of September 2010.

    I would like to object to the following elements of the scheme:

    1. The group of three black poplars proposed for the middle of the grass on Midsummer Common roughly between Auckland Road and the River. (See plan within report to the 23rd September West Central Area Committee).
    2. The new, or perhaps transplanted, tree just to south of trees 143 and 144.
    3. The tree proposed for next to the path from Brunswick Gardens to the Cutter Ferry bridge; on the north (river-side) of the path and directly south of tree 143.

    All these trees are in the same area. What I am objecting to is new planting within the middle of triangle of open space which extends from the central area of the common down towards the Cutter Ferry bridge. The basis for my objection is I think the large open expanse of the common, particularly given its city centre location, gives it its special character and value and is a significant asset for Cambridge. The proposed planting in the area I have identified will reduce the both the actual amount of open clear space in the middle of the common; also remove the dramatic impact of the large open space particularly when looking onto the Common from the area of the Cutter Ferry bridge; but also make the open space appear smaller from other points of view too.

    I think deciding to plant in this area is a decision which ought be taken by democratically elected councillors. I do not believe that this planting was properly considered and approved at the West / Central Area committee, and it was not proposed during the public consultation which closed on the 10th of September 2010.

    I made these objections in person at the West Central Area Committee. The only response was from an officer who stated that this part of the common did not need to be kept open as it was not needed for events. Obviously this response does not address the basis for my objection; I am not saying this area ought be kept free of trees for events.

    At the West/Central area committee councillors never discussed the planting in this area; they went through each of the areas covered by the consultation which closed on the 10th of September. At the end of deliberations a number of councillors, including the chair of the West / Central Area committee asked when they would be debating the planting in the central area. Cllr Cantrill stepped in and decreed that it had been approved along with the riverside planting; known as “Area B”; this is despite the extent of this area as shown on the plans before councillors not extending into the middle of the common, into the area where this planting is proposed.

    In considering this I would like councillors to note that the consultation plans are misleading in that they show trees 143 and 144 further from the river-side than they in-fact are. Comparing the plans with a Google Earth satellite image shows the discrepancy to be significant.

    I note that while I objected to a number other elements of the proposed schemes at the West/Central Area committee I am not pushing those objections as they have been rejected democratically and it is clear who the councillors responsible are.

    I hope that elements of the scheme which have been omitted from the current consultation plans will still be going ahead; for example I would very much like to see the planting of the new London Plane on Midsummer Common Riverside near the Victoria Avenue Bridge; and for the gaps in the Jesus Green Plane Tree Avenue to be filled.

    Peter Constable, Chair of the Jesus Green Association has said he has objected to the felling of all three leylandii by the board-walk, suggesting one ought be left.

    So at least two elements of the proposals will go to the Planning Committee on Wednesday 15 December.

    Should others object to other elements, for example the incursion into the open space to Butt Green, the shielding of the toilets, and the pollarding of riverside trees which are currently well formed and provide height marking the river I will support those views if I am able to speak at the planning meeting.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    The report to the 15th December Planning Committee has today been published by the council:

    http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/democracy/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=3319

    My objections have been almost entirely ignored. The only element which makes the report is the fact the plans are only of sections of the green spaces not the full areas affected by the proposals.

    As well as ignoring my objection there is no detail on the proposed pollarding, which as far as I can see is pollarding for the first time, of some of the riverside willows. If photos of the trees were provided councillors would be able to see they are being misled; I suspect this is why there are no photos, and no detailed discussion, of these trees.

    I think these omissions are scandalous; and it is appalling that the council have not written to me to alert me to the fact that my objections have largely been ignored and not included in the report to councillors.

    The report as it stands is an internally inconsistent farce. It starts by saying the plans are “to plant 64 new trees and replace 14″ but only a fraction of those trees are shown on the accompanying plans.

    The report to the planning meeting is one of the most astonishingly incomplete and misleading reports I have ever seen.

    I hope councillors will defer the item until they are presented with the full details.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have received a further response from the council stating:

    Mr Taylor,

    In my previous response to you I had already answered many of your points and explained that the consultation for Midsummer Common and Jesus Green was part of the City Council tree protocol procedure for the trees that are proposed to be replaced, transplanted or pollarded. This consultation does not relate to any new planting and a substantial consultation process has already been completed for this. The result of which was presented to West/Central at their special meeting in September where members of the public had the opportunity to have an input in the decision making process.

    In response to your specific questions:

    * Why the plans being consulted on are not exactly as approved by the West/Central Area committee despite the consultation notices claiming them to be as approved by that committee.
    ANSWER: The plans were produced to illustrate the trees proposed to be replaced, transplanted or pollarded and are in accordance with those presented to West/Central Area Committee.

    * Why some new planting, but not other new planting is included.
    ANSWER: No new planting is labelled on the consultation plans, red dots depicting new planting may be visible but the consultation text as written requests feedback/comments on the work proposed to existing trees only.

    * Why plans of only certain areas of each green space have been included in the consultation documents despite tree works being proposed in areas not shown on the plans.
    ANSWER: This is because this consultation only relates to the work proposed to existing trees in accordance with the tree protocol, the plans therefore only illustrate the trees affected.

    West/Central Area Committee in September made the decision to approve all planting as proposed with the exception of the area to the south east of Midsummer Common, which was requested to be the subject of further consultation with the residents of North Terrace and Brunswick Cottages. The work proposed to existing trees was also approved subject to the outcome of the City Council Tree Protocol Procedure, a process that we are now completing and for which you are responding to.

    At this stage therefore you cannot object to the areas of new tree planting you are referring to, as they were the subject of the main consultation and have already been approved for implementation by West/Central Area Committe. This is with the exception of the new tree proposed next to the path from Brunswick Gardens to the Cutter Ferry bridge; on the north (river side) of the path and directly south of tree 143. This is proposed as a result of the North Terrace/Brunswick Cottages consultation and Ward Councillors and the Chair of West/Central Area Committee are currently reviewing the outcome of the consultation and will make their decision shortly, as delegated by the Area Committee in September. I will however pass on your concerns regarding planting within the middle triangle of open space, which extends from the central area of the common down towards the Cutter Ferry bridge.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

    Regards
    Andy Preston

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    No new planting is labelled on the consultation plans, red dots depicting new planting may be visible

    That’s in internally inconsistent statement.
    That’s one of my complaints.
    What makes it worse is that some, but not all, of the proposed new planting is present.

    This consultation does not relate to any new planting and a substantial consultation process has already been completed for this.

    The plan for the consultation which closed on the 10th of September 2010; ie the “substantial consultation”, did not propose any planting in the area I am referring to. These proposals only appeared in the papers for the 23rd West Central Area Committee. There was confusion at the committee, including from the committee chair, as to if they had been approved or not as their proposed positions lie outside of the boundaries of “Area B” the area voted on.

    No proposals to plant well within the triangle of open space towards the cutter ferry bridge were included in the substantial consultation. The area was left open on the plans consulted on.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    The final plan for the planing has now been released (after all but one tree has been planted!)

    http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/public/docs/Midsummer%20Common%20tree-planting%20plan%20Jan11.pdf

    The three black poplars I opposed being placed in the open space by the cutter ferry bridge have been deleted from the final plan. I was calling for this, so am happy they’ve gone, but councillors never made the decision to get rid of them – they’ve just disappeared from the plan.

    The remaining tree yet to be planted is the black poplar which the plan states in writing is to be transplanted, but the colour of the dot indicates is to be a new tree. According to the plan this tree is to go right in the middle of the open space 1/2 way between the path and the river. However the locations of the adjacent trees 143 and 144 on the plans is a long way out (they’re much closer to the river than shown) so where this tree will eventually end up is not clear at all.

    extract from the final tree planting plan

    It appears that while Cllr Cantrill rejected my opposition to the trees in the middle of the open space during the 23rd September West Central Area Committee he later, in the secret meetings with the immediate neighbours, reversed that view and removed the trees from the plan. Perhaps Cllr Cantrill just didn’t want to say he agreed with me in a public meeting. It’s great that he’s now decided not to plant these 6-7 trees in the triangle of open space down towards the bridge; but quite why he’s left one on the plan is baffling.

  9. Paul Bird

    I have just cycled along from Elizabeth Way bridge to Jesus Green and back past the Fort St George and am dismayed to say the least at the change in the riverside view from what has for many years been a leafy and shaded route to an open and far less pleasant experience. Without a prior survey I cannot say what has gone and what has been replaced but there seem to be far fewer mature trees with their extensive spring foliage and far more new plantings surrounded by wooden fencing, with some trees pollarded.
    The overall effect is dreadful and I’m afraid the cynic in me has come to the conclusion that the predominant factor in all this is the wish of the developer of the Brunswick Road flats that their residents may have an unobstructed river view.

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