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.
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.
Also see these other articles on this site:
- Breakdown of the Jesus Green project costs.
- My initial comments on the proposals
- A report on the September West Central Area Committee where I spoke on the Jesus Green proposals
- My notes from Cambridge City Council’s Community Services Scrutiny Committee on the 13th of November where the decision taken by Executive Councillor Juile Smith to submit a bid for £4.4 million worth of work on Jesus Green was on the agenda.