Jesus Green Trees

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008. 1:56pm

Substantial Tree which plans show is to be felled on Jesus Green
On Monday the 24th of November, Executive Councillor Julie Smith of Cambridge City Council wrote to the Cambridge Evening News defending the plans for Jesus Green:

The removal of 59 trees has been recommended by arboricultural experts because they are old and frail, poorly formed or diseased and need to be removed in the interests of safety and good management. The article fails to mention the proposal for 100 replacement trees. There will thus be a significant net increase in the number of trees on Jesus Green.

The refurbishment of Jesus Green is an exemplar scheme and shows our aspirations to ensure Cambridge’s open spaces are the best they can be for future generations. The project is being undertaken with full consultation with the people of Cambridge and their views will be taken into account every step of the way.

She also stated that the bid:

seeks to ensure that Jesus Green is accessible to a broad range of people, to conserve and improve the understanding of the heritage, increase opportunities for volunteering and improve the way the green is managed and maintained.

I have submitted a letter intended for consideration for publication in reply:

I am writing in response to Executive Councillor Julie Smith’s astounding letter printed in Monday’s paper in which she stated the fifty-nine trees she is proposing felling on Jesus Green are all “old and frail, poorly formed or diseased”. I have viewed the proposals submitted as part of the recent £4.4 million lottery bid and been to take a look at the condemned trees. It is clear to me the vast majority are in jeopardy just because they are not positioned in the straight lines the new scheme desires, or are in the way of proposed building works. A number of quite substantial trees and a vigorous young oak appear to be among those under threat.

I am concerned Cllr Smith has not understood the content of the plans, not only with respect to the trees to be removed, but given her description of the project’s aims as being to “conserve”. Conservation appears to me to be an inappropriate term given the amount of green space to be lost to the proposed stone piazza, paths and new entrance courtyard.

A healthy young oak tree which is just getting established is another of the 59 trees on Jesus Green under threat.

Cllr Smith’s assertion that “the project is being undertaken with full consultation with the people of Cambridge” does not reflect what has happened. Too much of the consultation so far has focused on select groups such as the Jesus Green Association, the Friends of Jesus Green Pool and a group of youngsters who were paid for their opinions. If Cllr Smith really wants the informed opinions of the people of Cambridge then she could help by making the detailed plans available online. The information currently on the council’s website makes no mention of the fifty-nine threatened trees nor itemises the astronomical costs of some elements of the work. It has been left to the Cambridge Evening News and local residents to publicise these facts.

Finally Cllr Smith suggests in her letter that lottery money is needed to fund the management and maintenance of the green; I do not think these are items the council should be looking to the lottery to fund.

The two specific trees I referred to are those pictured.

A letter published on the 26th of November from Naomi Needs also on the subject of the Jesus Green describes the proposed work as:

wrecking of a peaceful, public green space by unnecessary construction and tree-felling.

She also noted:

the city council is apparently content to leave benches broken and the toilets in an unsavoury state.

I think it is time to reconsider the City Council’s policy not to place Tree Preservation Orders on trees they consider under good management, currently they consider all the city council owned and managed trees in the city as being under good management.

I have been able to note the position of about twenty-six of the fifty-nine condemned trees with reference to the plan within the lottery bid document. I have marked these in red on the plan below (click it to enlarge). The remainder of the trees are still to be identified, some may be on the site of building works and not marked on the plan. New trees to be placed on the site of old trees may also be another source of unmarked trees which it is proposed to fell; all but twelve trees on the path from Lower Park Street to Victoria Avenue might come into this category.

Plan highlighting in red the trees to be felled.

Also see these other articles on this site:

6 comments/updates on “Jesus Green Trees

  1. Richard Article author

    I wrote to the Andie Harper show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire yesterday as they were discussing trees; the following was read out:

    Although your guest (Tamsin James) from the Horticultural Trades Association wasn’t aware of it – Cambridge City Council already has a Free Trees for Babies scheme.

    While the trees for babies scheme appears a bit nuts to me, I am big tree fan, I’m just off out to take some photos of the 59 trees on Jesus Green which Cllr Julie Smith the executive councillor for Arts and Recreation at Cambridge City Council has condemned as “old and frail, poorly formed or diseased” and wants to fell.

    I didn’t catch all your tree piece, but did the amount of trees being lost on and around the Science Park get a mention; some are describing what’s happening in that area as deforestation.

    This prompted a number of fathers to call in asking if it was true they could swap their babies for trees!

  2. Richard Article author

    I have been corresponding with Philip Brassett who maintains an online database, including maps, of trees in Cambridge. His Map of the trees on Jesus Green is available via this link.

    Mr Brassett has said:

    The only “old and frail” trees on Jesus Green are the horse chestnuts!

    He commented on the proposal to remove all the recently-planted trees adjacent to Victoria Avenue he says he thought the point of them was to develop a kind of woodland glade with uncut grass.

    He suggests that timing is the key, and if the new planting goes in first, then any felling required occurs a decade or so later once the new trees have become established that would be fine.

    Mr Brassett also warns of the dangers of planting monoculture avenues, due to the risks of disease and points to previous large losses of trees on Parkers’ Piece and Jesus Green as historical events we should learn from.

    I think Mr Brassett’s observations are all emminently sensible.

  3. Richard Article author

    I have written to Cllr Bick following his quotes in a Cambridge Evening News article today in which he condems the actions of those critical of council’s plans for Jesus Green.

    Cllr Bick,

    Today’s Cambridge Evening News reports that you are critical of those attempting to conserve the trees and green space on Jesus Green in Cambridge. You are quoted as saying: “They are trying to wreck the plans before we have even had the chance to find out whether we can get the money ” and that you consider a “a wide consultation exercise” has taken place. You have also stated; “These individuals, having participated in the consultation exercise and presumably not got what they wanted, are setting about denying any benefits to the rest of us.”

    I would like to point out to you that key elements of the plans submitted to the lottery were not included in the consultation. For example neither the consultation documents nor documents currently available via the council’s website mention the fifty-nine threatened trees. The proposed new entrance courtyard which will result in the loss of a significant amount of green space was also omitted from the consultation.

    As for people not getting what they wanted; I am aware that many groups and individuals submitted comments stating that they did not want to lose grassed areas, these concerns were not even expressed in the summaries of the consultation responses never mind taken account of.

    You are reported as holding the belief that the plans were modified as the result of the consultation. Two changes were made which councillors have been told were as a result of consultation comments, one was the removal of the new cycle bridge from the plans which was never a serious prospect as it was outside the scope of the funds being bid for.

    I encourage you to look at the profligacy of the proposed plans, and at some of the trees destined to be felled via the below links:

    Richard Taylor

  4. Sophie Grove

    Well done on the trees information. It will be a shock if we wake up in 2010 to the sound of chain saws on our beloved Jesus Green. And so many of the trees are healthy looking from your pictures.

  5. Richard Article author

    A council officer speaking to me in the Guildhall earlier told me that the consultant Phil Back is to be hired by the council to identify the 59 trees.

    The council is proposing to employ a consultant to help them interpret their own lottery bid document!

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