New Trees for Jesus Green and Midsummer Common – Seminar and Workshop

Sunday, July 4th, 2010. 3:19am

Plane Tree Avenue, Jesus Green, Cambridge.

Plane Tree Avenue, Jesus Green, Cambridge.

On Thursday the 1st of July 2010 I attended a seminar and workshop on new tree planting for Jesus Green and Midsummer Common. The fact the meeting had been scheduled was only revealed in public following a question I asked at the West Central Area committee on the 24th of June. At the time of West Central Area Committee the meeting was reported to be invite-only. I made my opposition to this clear but the executive councillor responsible, Cllr Cantrill, said he was not opening up the meeting to everyone.

During the afternoon of Tuesday the 29th of June, with just one clear day left before the meeting, the decision to hold the session in private was reversed and the meeting was opened up to all who expressed an interest. This U-Turn was announced in a city council press release. I was sent a copy of the press release by email, though at the time I wasn’t aware it was a public press release and not a personal email to me offering me the opportunity to register to attend. Even as people were walking into the building some of those attending were unsure of if it was open to the public or not.

I tweeted about my plan to attend the meeting when I was still unsure of its status and Cambridge resident Daniel O’Donovan responded to say:

@RTaylorUK JG resident here, would have come had I; 1) Not thought that it was ‘private’ 2) Knew when and where it was.

and then

Cambridge CC fulfilling ‘openness’ pledge by running an open meeting but neglecting to tell anyone about it. #CambridgeCityCouncil

I suspect Mr O’Donovan was not alone. Open meetings of the Jesus Green Association (JGA) and Friends of Midsummer Common (FoMC) can each attract around a hundred people, with relatively little overlap between the two groups yet I think only four members of the public, including me, attended the event. We were joined by representatives of Jesus College, the JGA, FoMC, Brunswick and North Kite Residents Association, Cambridge Past Present and Future and an ex. council tree officer. The eight to ten attendees were almost outnumbered by councillors and council officers. Roderick Cantrill the executive councillor for Arts and Recreation (an area which includes responsibility for the city’s green spaces) was present from the start and he was joined later by East Chesterton Councillor Clare Blair and Market Ward Councillor Tim Bick. Despite Midsummer Common and Jesus Green being in their ward the other representatives of Market Ward, Cllrs Rosenstiel and Dixon, were not present, and it wasn’t clear if they had been invited. A large contingent of city council officers were present including:

  • Director of Environment and Planning – Simon Payne
  • Principal Arboricultural Officer – Diana Oviatt-Ham
  • Head of Active Communities – Debbie Kaye
  • Principal Landscape Architect – Dinah Foley-Norman
  • Tree Officer – Kenny McGregor
  • Historic Environment Manager – John Preston
  • Green Space Manager – Alistair Wilson

I hope they weren’t all on overtime.

Cllr Cantrill’s Introduction

Mr Payne introduced Cllr Cantrill, making clear he had only recently taken on responsibility for the Arts and Recreation portfolio.

Cllr Cantrill began rather abstractly by saying Midsummer Common had evolved over time and told those present that five hundred years ago there had been no crossings over the river and now there were two. He eventually moved onto the purpose of the meeting, which he said was “speaking to you the residents” and talked about the responsibility our generation has to leave the common in a condition so that future generations can enjoy it.

Cantrill admitted that there had been a “rocky journey over the last few years” with respect to tree planting on the Midsummer Common and Jesus Green. He said: “on behalf of the City Council – we would like to have done things better”. Cantrill outlined his timetable for the future and said: “the journey will deliver planting in the autumn”.

He then made the astoundingly unqualified statement that:

This public event is the first part of the public consultation process.

He made no mention of the fact it was Thursday afternoon and the meeting had only become “Public” on the Tuesday afternoon (though still apparently required registration). Cllr Cantrill has form for doing this when he, as Executive Councillor for Customer Services and Resources he was a member of the Love Cambridge board. There a members meeting was only opened to the public at the last moment and afterwards cited as being public.

John Preston – The Wider Context

Mr Preston said that the tree planting plans should be looked at in the context of Cambridge and with particular regard to Jesus Green and Midsummer Common’s place in a line of green spaces from the “Mays course”, by which I think he means Ditton Fields, through Stourbridge Common, and the green areas along the river on the other side of the city. He said these were a “sequence of historic spaces” and showed an image of Cambridge from before Midsummer Common and Jesus Green were split in the mid 1800s.
Mr Preston said that large stature trees were an important part of the character of the spaces.

Mr Preston also told the group about what Trinity College were doing at their avenue of trees between the college and the backs, they’ve planted new trees on either side to create the avenue of the future.

We were also told about the council’s plans to review its Arboricultural Strategy. (I have previously made an FOI request for the council’s current Arboricultural Strategy, but a year after it was made the request has yet to be fulfilled Discussion FOI correspondence)

Maps were shown of the various conservation areas, in areas surrounding the commons. Victoria Avenue is the border of the the central conservation area.

Mr Preston pointed out there are downloadable assessments of Jesus Green and Victoria Avenue created as part of the Cambridge Historic Core Appraisal.

Peter Constable – Chairman of the JGA

Mr Constable addressed the meeting saying he felt he was in the presence of people who loved Cambridge’s green spaces even more than he did. He said the members of the JGA looked on the green as their garden. He said that the layout of the green at the moment is “excellent and historic” and he didn’t think that would want altering at all. He said the JGA’s would like to see the area conserved, preserved, maintained and enhanced. He said he was in favour of re-planting for the long-term and said we ought be planning now, in the current exercise, to replace trees which are expected to need to be felled in the next 10-20 years.

Cambridge's City Council's principal tree officer admits Midsummer Common's trees have been in a poor state for a decade.

Cambridge’s City Council’s principal tree officer admits Midsummer Common’s trees have been in a poor state for a decade.

Principal Arboricultural Officer – Diana Oviatt-Ham on “Issues, Principles and Choices”

The officer started by saying: “In the past we had not involved you very much, but we have changed and are trying to now”. I thought that was quite an ironic way to start given the small number of people who she was addressing. She showed a photograph of officer Kenny McGregor talking to a group of people about the trees on Lammas Land to illustrate the concept of tree officers engaging with the public.

Diana Oviatt-Ham then told us all how trees were good for people’s physical and mental health and said they made places attractive both for residents as well as tourists and those seeking to hold events on the green spaces. She asserted that trees “reduce pollution”, and said that temperatures in the shade of a tree can be up to 10˚C cooler than in direct sunlight. Turning to noise, we were told that in fact trees did not have any effect on noise levels but that people had an impression that they did and Diana Oviatt-Ham claimed that “a calming effect exists”. I felt this passage had more than a hint of new-age mumbo jumbo to it.

We were next told that most of the trees in the city had been deliberately planted; with the exception of some trees in back gardens. In the 1800s people from the university and colleges had planted many of the city’s green spaces.

We were also told that the substantial trees had a life-span of 100-200 years and were interspersed with trees which lasted about 50-70 years which, on Jesus Green had already been replaced once or twice. Diana Oviatt-Ham said that the Plane Tree Avenue on Jesus Green had 100 years or so left.

Diana Oviatt-Ham then drew attention to the damming statements on the health of the trees in the 2001 Midsummer Common Conservation plan which says:

With a few notable exceptions the condition of the trees on the common is generally poor.

Victoria Avenue was highlighted as an area needing work to protect, and the irrational replacement of a failed horse chestnut with a rowan was given as an example of haphazard management without a clear plan.

Diana Oviatt-Ham expressed her opinion that having eleven different species of tree along the riverside of Midsummer Common resulted in the area “losing coherence”, she also talked about the need to remove leylandii from the swimming pool screen to protect the row of limes within them was also mentioned. She also suggested that Midsummer Common and Jesus Green were currently a gap in the line of willows seen down the hailingway on one side and out to Granchester in the other.

The need to consider the soil, amount of water available and other factors before deciding which tree to plant in a particular location was mentioned by the senior tree officer. She also listed a few of the constraints to planting including recreational use, events, cattle, electricity and other utilities. She suggested trees could be used to focus the eye and mask traffic routes as well as mark the line of the river so it can be seen from further away. The suggestion that trees could be used to hide the Elizabeth Way bridge was also made. Suggestions were also made that the camber of the bank on Midsummer Common could be reflected in the tree planting and that the views of the trees on the green spaces should be considered from different perspectives, both within and outside of the green spaces.

Diana Oviatt-Ham expressed her view that planting ought be kept simple, saying “we’re not planting an Arboretum”.

We were told that the principal tree officer had produced her own, very draft, proposals for a planting scheme, but these were not revealed at any point during the event.

She said the aim of the workshop sessions would be to produce ideas and proposals which could be turned into plans which could be consulted on.

Questioned on the future of the Horse Chestnut avenue on Victoria Avenue Diana Oviatt-Ham explained that trees had recently been lost, and two more on the Jesus Green side were likely to be lost in the near future due to them having “structural problems”. She described these as those trees with the helical trunks. I don’t know if these were being condemned because of their helical trunks or if that was mentioned simply to identify them. While saying she felt there was need for “succession planting” now, there was not a threat that the miner moths which had evaded the trees would kill them.

Anthony Bowen Cambridge, Orator of the University of Cambridge, an ex. Liberal Democrat Councillor, and Liberal Democrat supporter who attempted to discredit me at the December 2009 West Central Area Committee spoke next. Mr Bowen introduced himself as a fellow of Jesus College, and a member of the garden committee there. He reported that the college loses one or two chestnuts every year. He said the leaf miner moth weakens the tree and “the canker gets it”. He said he was more pessimistic about the future of the avenue of chestnuts on Victoria Avenue than the tree officer, he said action ought be taken now in respect of the avenue as he didn’t see why there would be any different future for the trees on the avenue than there had been for those in the college.

Someone suggested we ought be talking about planting and not felling, and someone else asked the principal tree officer what the council’s policies were on when a tree was felled. Simon Payne stepped in to intercept that question and said the council intends to do a separate session on that in the future. Cllr Cantrill stood up to confirm that event would be held in the near future and would explain “the present approach we take on trees in the city”.

Group Sessions

As the plane tree avenue is expected to last another century or more, we ought fill in the gaps.

As the plane tree avenue is expected to last another century or more, we ought fill in the gaps.

Those present then split into four groups of four, and marked their thoughts on maps of Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.

During the discussion Diana Oviatt-Ham revealed that one of the plane trees on the avenue in Jesus Green was being considered for felling. When looking towards Jesus Lock the tree is on the right, two up towards the lock from the large gap/path in the middle of the avenue.

Diana Oviatt-Ham also raised for discussion the possibility of “clear felling” and replanting with a new avenue of trees along the line described as “the cycle path” from Park Street to Victoria Avenue. I heard no enthusiasm for this proposal. I think this was largely because everyone present primarily wanted the council to get on and plant some trees given the amount it has been felling, and didn’t want to see any immediate proposals start with felling.

I discussed the proposals with a group comprising Martin Thompson of the Jesus Green Association, Barry Higgs of the Friends of Midsummer Common, and a resident from the Manhattan Drive area on the opposite bank of the river. Simon Payne, Diana Oviatt-Ham, Kenny McGregor and Dinah Foley-Norman were also on-hand.
We agreed:

  • Replanting in the gaps, and gaps which emerge, in the Plane Tree Avenue on Jesus Green was worth doing, as the avenue as the initial trees have an expected life time of another century and new trees reach a reasonable size to contribute to the avenue in 20-30 years. (There are three replacement trees in the avenue already which are of that kind of age.) We said we’d hope the avenue could be managed indefinitely in that manner but Diana Oviatt-Ham gave her opinion that wasn’t practical because she thought at some point many of the original trees would fail in one go.
  • Maintaining the existing clear space in the middle of Midsummer Common, including the triangle of clear space down to the cutter ferry bridge. To maintain the open spaces on Jesus Green where the Beer Festival has recently been held, and on the other side of the plane tree avenue.
  • New planting of trees, especially willows, including tall willows, and other native riverside trees such as black poplar along the riverside of both Midsummer Common and Jesus Green. On Midsummer Common we wanted clumps of trees and in places not a single line. The aim would be to make the riverside path a mix of shaded and open.
  • Retaining all the existing trees along the river of both Midsummer Common and Jesus Green.
  • A substantial, long lived, tree to replace the recently felled Lime by the Cutter Ferry bridge
  • Taller trees between the common and the new development on the Cambridge Regional College site, with the aim of them providing some shielding of the view of the new, tall, development from the common
  • Succession planting of oak or elm on both sides of Victoria Avenue, Midsummer Common Jesus Green and outside Jesus College. Spacing the trees in between the existing and setting them back a couple of metres to get them as close to the road as possible while allowing them to thrive and grow straight.
  • Felling the conifer screen around the swimming pool and the conifers by the boardwalk on Jesus Green
  • Planting to hide the Elizabeth Way Bridge, but keeping the area between that bridge and the cutter ferry bridge open in the middle.
  • Planting of various spaced out new, substantial, long living, trees in a scattered fashion down the south side of the common in front of North Terrace and down towards the Cutter Ferry Bridge.
  • More trees like the one existing English Oak to be included in any new scattered planting on Jesus Green.
  • The cherry trees avenue on Jesus Green – from Jesus Lock to Park Parade is appropriately scaled, future planting on that axis should be essentially the same again when those trees get past their best and stop producing such impressive blossom.
  • Planting to screen the armidilloos (This was one element I was less keen on – but there are ideas for how it could be done to screen from some directions, and to not create a place to hide)

There was a lot of agreement between the four groups which had been discussing independently.

A second group including Cllr Clare Blair and Alistair Wilson proposed replacing the Victoria Avenue trees directly in between the existing trees and no further out; the aim of this specifically being to preclude and prevent any future road widening “by the county council”. They also marked the path between Jesus Lock and Park Street as a “possible new avenue”.

A third group’s suggestions, presented by Caroline, the representative of CPPF, started with their proposal for the Horse Chestnuts along Victoria Avenue. They suggested removing them all within the next 5-15 years. They said we should now plant a new row of shorter lived trees outside of them (ignoring the scrappy planting on Jesus Green) to act as an avenue while the inner trees were replaced. They suggested replacement with planes or oaks.

The third group also suggested a “false edge” for Jesus Green – planting in line with the back edge of the swimming pool creating a new and separate space between the river and the green in which the pool, skate park, play area, and all other recreational facilities which might be desired over the next century could be located without impinging on the green itself. This group felt that shade along the tow-path was a bad thing (as do the city council tree officers who think shading watercourses, even the flowing Cam, is bad for biodiversity). For that reason they were proposing clumps of riverside trees rather than a line following the river. They too suggested willow/black poplar. The group also suggested tree planting to integrate the pub and Midsummer House better into the common.

Group Sessions

This old tree makes a significant contribution to the character of the common.

This old tree makes a significant contribution to the character of the common.

At the Cutter Ferry bridge this third group wanted to use tree planting to better define the directions of the various paths and to reduce the encroachment of tarmac. They also wanted the path junctions elsewhere to be marked by trees. They too wanted some tree planting around the toilets. The final, non-tree related, but evidently strongly held view by the group was that the CCTV which has become a permanent feature on a lamppost in the middle of teh common was “not appropriate” and should be removed. I completely agree and think that the CCTV, especially in that semi-covert format – a device that doesn’t look like a camera and in an area which isn’t signed ought not be there – I hope Cllr Cantrill was listening – and remembered he stood on a Liberal Democrat and not a New Labour manifesto.

The final group’s suggestions including considering non-native trees on the grounds of offering more varied appearance and potential to resist climate change. On Victoria Avenue they proposed interspersing new planting and setting them back, on the south side of the common they called for trees which could be looked around so the houses retained their vistas. They also requested Walnut Trees on Walnut Tree Avenue. On the riverbank they suggested that formality in the planting wasn’t necessary.

Annotated Plans

High resolution photos of the plans, click to download: (1.3MB JPG).

Summing Up

Cllr Cantrill and officers suggested that what they would primarily be looking for was a proposal to spend the 50K already allocated by the West/Central Area Committee.

The CPPF representative suggested it would be easy to raise money to buy trees, and sell off wood from felled trees and the public money ought go into other things such as tree guards. The friends of Midsummer Common who have already raised money for a lot of planting on the common argued against this, and it was pointed out the money was for tree guards and maintenance and not just trees. (Previous City Council fellings have come with assurances the wood will go to good use eg. burrs from Lammas Land going to local artists and Midsummer Common wood being made available for boaters to burn, but I’ve not seen any evidence these assurances have been kept and the wood isn’t seen as an extra bonus for those employed to fell the trees).

Cllr Tim Bick, who angrily opposed residents, including me, when we successfully fought off the Liberal Democrat’s plans to fell fifty nine trees on Jesus Green as part of a lottery bid which involved paving over lots of grass spoke to say he would like to see some significant planting come out of the 50K as: “we might not have the same size of pot in the future”.

Cllr Cantrill indicated that he was open to the idea of felling the leylandii and working on Victoria Avenue. He repeated his intent to hold further public consultation; he said those who attended the workshop could see the proposals which would be worked up by the tree officers prior to them going out to public consultation – which he thought would be possible in August. To allow for the fact many people are away in August Cllr Cantrill said that the decision would be taken at a West Central Area Committee later in the year – possibly a special one just to discuss the tree planting plans, to be held in September.

Cllr Clare Blair, a Liberal Democrat who stood for election on a manifesto including the current area committee system, spoke to complain about the fact the decision was being taken by the West Central Area Committee despite many people from across the city having an interest in, and regularly using the open spaces – for example by regularly travelling through them.

Cllr Cantill said he agreed, but appeared to be saying he too was constrained by the Lib Dems’ excessive drives for inappropriate localism as he responded: “It is a West/Central EIP (Environmental Improvement Project)”.

A couple of final questions were raised. Mr Higgs wanted an assurance that the trees’ running costs would be covered and they would be looked after. He was so assured that the council was able to look after the trees it was to plant.

Cllr Bick noted that the council had already got a fund to replace the trees it had recently felled; and the 50K should be used for new planting over and above what the council had recently removed.

Council Officer Debbie Kaye essentially said she agreed in principle, but wasn’t sure the council’s tree replacement fund actually had much money in it. Cllr Cantrill said he wasn’t sure what the position was (this is astonishing as Cllr Cantrill has been present at many West/Central Area committees where members of the public have raised questions about replanting on Midsummer Common and have been assured by the council that funds have been set aside for replacing the felled trees). Mr Lawton – who regularly attends – and pays attention to – the West Central Area Committees assured Cllr Cantrill that what Cllr Bick had said was accurate and that prior to the approval of the 50K there were already funds committed to replanting. Cllr Cantrill reminded everyone he was new to this portfolio of responsibility and appeared to promise to get a grip saying he would do all he could to get as much money as he could for the trees. He then thanked the officers for the work they had done in preparing for the discussion and promised he was committed to getting some significant new planting done, particularly in light of the fact such funds might not be available in future years.

11 comments/updates on “New Trees for Jesus Green and Midsummer Common – Seminar and Workshop

  1. Michele Ide-Smith

    Very interesting write up Richard. I would love to see Black Poplars planted in town. They are quite rare and we are lucky to have two majestic trees at Fen Ditton. I’m glad there were residents involved in these initial discussions and plans.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    A consultation is now being run by Phil Back Associates Ltd. supposedly based on ideas generated at the workshop.

    Closing date is the 10th of September (I’ve no idea how long it has been running quietly for).

    One of the biggest questions – if we should switch from Chestnuts on Victoria Avenue to another species has not been included.

    The council employs a large tree team, and a consultations officer so quite why they’ve chosen to engage a consultant to act as a middleman between them and surveymonkey (the free website on which the survey is hosted) is baffling.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have just returned from visiting the consultation tent on the common.

    There were five city council officers, a council truck and a car. A solitary notice board contained just a copy of the plan that’s up for consultation.

    I asked why the question of which species would be used for replanting if replacement of the Victoria Avenue chestnuts went ahead. I was told that this consultation was just a first step to decide if there would be replacement or not, deciding which species would come later.

    I queried which trees were the Copper Beech trees on Jesus Green which the suggestion is being made could be felled. I was told to attend the consultation event on Jesus Green, scheduled for the 4th of September to find that out for sure, but the officer thought they were the trees between the tennis courts and the road.

    I asked the five officers standing on the common why a consultant had been engaged to run the consultation, and what their role was. I was told the consultants had been tasked to collect the responses and write a report on them. I was external consultant ensured the consultation was run independently of the council; but when I asked why that mattered a different reason for engaging a consultant was offered – that the council officers were all too busy to do the job themselves.

    I found this astonishing – five council officers have the afternoon to stand in a tent on the common – (While I observed the tent for about 20 minutes I, and a couple, were the only visitors; so the staffing level appeared excessive) – yet the council can’t find one of its many tree officers, planning officers, green spaces officers, to spend half a day collating the responses to a consultation. We need to shake up the public sector and get some passionate and dedicated people in.

    I asked when the consultation had started – and was told it started yesterday.

    While the consultation documents don’t make it clear, it was confirmed there are two elements to what is being sought here. First is input into how the council ought spent £50K it has already allocated for new tree planting on Jesus Green / Midsummer Common, but also input on longer term strategy.

    The state of the Victoria Avenue chestnuts was discussed, both with me and the others present. The officers said the bug that is attacking them isn’t causing structural damage and won’t kill the trees; officers were of the opinion they might recover. I asked if spending some of the allocated money on leaf removal (removing the leaves and the bugs in them in the autumn) would be worthwhile and was told it wouldn’t be as the bugs would just blow in from elsewhere. Personally I’d be tempted to give it a go (I wonder how well timed chestnuts losing their leaves is with November the 5th?

  4. John Lawton

    Unfortunately couldn’t make this event, so thanks Richard for going along.

    I heard a report on Radio 4 Farming Today last year about the moth that overwinters in the fallen leaves. I have already suggested removing the fallen leaves, however that would mean extra work for the council of course.

    It’s very difficult to see that happening, as it is usually very difficult to get anything done by them at all (unless you do it yourself, like clearing rubbish for instance).

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Cambridge News A boards in the City are today carrying the headline:

    Plans to fell trees in city parks

    The article, which is talking about the proposals currently out for consultation, is at:

    The comments on the article show lots of opposition to felling healthy trees for reasons of uniformity.

    Such ideas have been included in the proposals despite the only person proposing them at the workshop being the council’s Principal Arboricultural Officer – Diana Oviatt-Ham.

  6. Daniel Smith

    Very interesing insight into the workings of our overactive but ineffectual Council in such matters. Currently corresponding with Officer Oviatt Ham re planned felling of perfectly healthy Plane trees in Alexandra Gardens which are threatening unspecified damage to un-named properties. We get to choose – lop them by 90% (???) or lose the completely. What is the agenda here?

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have responded to the consultation with the following:

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

    I would urge the Liberal Democrats running the city council to stand by their manifesto commitment to make: a “major additional investment in new tree planting on Midsummer Common and Jesus Green” and to for Cllr Cantrill to stand by, and act on, what he said in his summing up remarks at the 1st of July workshop where he said he was: “committed to getting some significant new planting done”.

    I want to see felling only of the conifers in the screen around the swimming pool and the conifers by the boardwalk on Jesus Green, I think the rest of the efforts ought be focused on new planting.

    I would like to see the final proposed plans published with the papers for the planned West/Central Area Committee on the 23rd of September 2010 in the committee rooms at the Guildhall at 7.30pm. I note the West/Central Area committee on the 26th of August promised these would be available a week before the meeting.

    A public question at the August West/Central area committee asked when the city wide tree strategy meeting will be held, and if as promised, it will be held prior to a decision on these proposals being made. That question did not get answered at the meeting, I suggest it needs clearly addressing; and if the meeting is due in the upcoming week it needs publicising (it is not currently mentioned on the city council’s website as far as I can see).

    Addressing the Questionnaire (

    1. I am responding as a private individual.

    2. I strongly agree there is a need to keep the central area of the common clear.
    I do not mind if the new planting serves to identify the entrances and exits to the common or not.

    Comments: I think the central area of the common to be kept clear ought include the open space towards the Cutter Ferry bridge.
    I do not think what was suggested at the workshop was planting additional trees along the riverside at the point at which the main paths meet the riverside path. I don’t think this intent is clearly captured by the wording “identify entrances/exits to the common with individual trees. I would also very strongly like to see a new substantial tree planted at the junction of paths just upstream of the Cutter Ferry bridge to replace the one recently felled.

    3. a) I oppose the proposed fellings to the west of the Fort St. George;
    b) I very strongly agree that the mature London Plane to the east of the Fort St. George ought be retained.

    I am astonished that a proposal to fell the London Plane has been included in these proposals. I am worried that this might indicate Cllr Canrill is considering ordering it to be felled; however I think the suggestion to remove it is probably more likely to be an indication that there are rogue officers within the council who are ignoring clear messages from councillors and those present at the workshop. I have not heard anyone other than the council’s principal tree officer suggest felling mature trees to create consistent planting which is what appears to be proposed here. I think councillors ought investigate how proposals for this, and other, fellings ended up being consulted on.

    I support the planting of Willows, and Poplars in this area.
    I would like to see the a substantial number, if not all, of the Poplars to be native Black Poplars, and not the very tall varieties of poplars with vertical branches (which it looks to me have been planted recently).

    4. I strongly oppose the fellings suggestion by options a) and b)
    I want to see substantial new planting of willows and poplars in this area; while keeping a few short stretches of the riverside path unshaded.

    5. I do not mind which of options a) or b) are chosen.

    Comment: I think this area needs to be planted with consideration to the proposed new entrances to the common from the new development. I very much like grazed pasture with one or two trees in the middle of it; I would suggest various English Oaks if two – three trees were to be planted in the middle of this area.

    I think that planting within the area which is currently taken over by the road, and perhaps greening more of that area would be a good aspiration for the future and current planting ought take that possibility into account and ought not overly demarcate the current fence line at Waltnut Tree Avenue.

    I strongly oppose option a) regular planting along the boundary.

    In front of the properties on Brunswick Walk I think informally, well spaced, planting would be ideal. I would particularly like to see a new tree replace the recently felled Chestnut at the junction of North Terrace and Butt Green. I think the larger number of new trees in this area ought be towards the new development site. I don’t think any new planting ought be any further towards the middle of the common than the Cutter Ferry Bridge – Auckland Road path.

    7. I think the area of Butt Green nearest the river ought be kept open, and free of trees. I think there is already sufficient planting in this area and would only like to see one or two new trees; one of which as I have suggested ought be at the North Terrace corner of Butt Green.

    On the idea of planting new trees near the toilet block; I certainly don’t want to see a screen, or further encroachment of trees into the the central space.

    8. I support none of the options given for the Victoria Avenue Chestnuts.

    I think the question of what species to replace them with, if replacement is needed, is a key omission from the consultation.
    At the moment I think we should take a “wait and see” approach to look at how the health of the trees changes over time. Clearly in nearby Jesus College many chestnuts have deteriorated badly and have been felled, but here they are currently fairing rather better and this summer have been generally in better health than in recent years. I think at the moment we should plant new Chestnuts in the gaps; but if the health of the trees does deteriorate rapidly in the future to the point where a majority have to be felled we should plant an avenue of various types of English Oaks to give future Cambridge Residents a fantastic avenue for a thousand years or more.

    9. I strongly disagree with the felling proposed.

    10. Area G (The London Plane Avenue) I very very strongly agree that trees in the avenue which have failed, or which fail in the future, ought be replaced, with new trees of the same species replanted in the same locations.

    Area H : I support doing nothing in this area; other than replacements when necessary. When trees are replaced I would like more to be replaced with longer living species of tree than are currently used.

    11. I support felling the Leylandii trees; I do not mind what species they are replaced with as long as they are replaced with trees which will grow to a substantial height and will be long lasting.

    b) I oppose the felling of the copper beech trees. (This wasn’t discussed at the workshop, I have no idea why felling is being proposed)

    12. I think the long term plan here ought be option a), to fell them all and replace when a substantial fraction of them fail. I do not think that time is now though or is coming too soon.

    13. I support felling the Leylandii; any replacement hedge should be functional ie. it should provide effective shelter for the Swimming pool area.

    Additional comment:
    I note no new riverside planting on Jesus Green is planned; I would like to see what is proposed for the Midsummer Common riverside continue onto Jesus Green.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    On the 16th of September plans which Cllr Cantrill and his officers will be recommending to the West/Central area committee ought be published; then yet again public comments will be sought – public speaking will be permitted at the West/Central Area committee on the 23rd of September.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    The proposals to be put to the West/Central Area Committee on the 23rd of September have now been published at: (Large PDF, plans on p.44 and p.45)
    Alternative link:

    I think it was not made clear during the consultation process that the long term strategy for the spaces was being considered. I believe this has affected the responses, especially on the Cherry Tree avenue on Jesus Green. The consultation itsself suggested immediate felling was an option.

    There is no indication that views submitted by groups and organisations have been given any greater weight than individuals; despite the groups in some cases I suspect representing views of their many members.


    Midsummer Common

    • Again the council is starting with felling. The proposals are to fell nine trees along riverside of Midsummer Common. I would like to see the council start with new planting rather than chopping these trees down.
    • I oppose the transplantation of a tree from the riverside at Midsummer Common into the middle of the open space. I think the open space ought be kept, including the triangle down to the Cutter Ferry bridge and think this tree chess is bonkers.
    • I think a potentially taller tree than a willow ought be planted at the entrance to the common where the paths meet upstream of the cutter ferry bridge. I would like to see a native black poplar here, or a replacement lime, or an unpollarded willow. I think this point ought have different planting to the rest of the riverside. Shifting the proposed three black poplars towards the bridge would be a good move in my view.
    • All the new planting on the south side of the common is proposed to be Tilia petiolaris ( Weeping Silver Lime Trees). There is no evidence of public demand for this consistency; it is clearly just the view of the council tree officer. I think planting here should be of various species, including Oak.
    • I would like to know if the proposed disease resistant Elm will be genetically modified (I would support Cambridge identifying a location where, when GM Elms are produced we can plant some) I think that would be very appropriate for a city where so much work on understanding the genetic basis for disease goes on.
    • I am disappointed the Oak on the riverside on Midsummer common is to be felled and replaced with a willow. I think if this tree is judged unhealthy it ought be replaced with a new oak of a similar size to the existing tree

    Jesus Green

    • I am very happy to see that the gaps in the Plane Tree avenue are to be filled with new Plane trees.
    • I would like two of the “to be determined” tree species to be oaks.
    • I am surprised by the suggestion to plant six silver limes along the river at Jesus Green. My impression was there was support for continuing to plant willow / poplar. I don’t oppose some limes but think again we’re seeing the tree officer’s penchant for consistent planting showing through.

    There’s an error in the report – a statement that Victoria Avenue contains an avenue of London Plane Trees.

    Cllr Cantrill’s press release proposals fails to include a link to the detailed plans

  10. Judith Gay

    I am a Cambridge resident. Thank you for your comprehensive reporting of this key local information. It is vital in the absence of impartial/any/adequate reporting from City Councillors or local newspapers.

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