The Liberal Democrat run Cambridge City Council is proposing removing all the foliage from three century old London plane trees on Alexandra Gardens following a claim that they are causing damage to 13 Holland Street. The proposals will see the crowns of the trees reduced to a few stumps of substantial branches.
A public meeting is to be held on the 28th February 2011 at St Luke’s Church on Victoria Road from 7pm until 9pm.
The 28th of February is also the last day for representations to the council’s consultation on the proposed works
I have submitted a formal objection to the council. This is my second formal objection relating to proposals for works to these trees. The first written in September 2010 was discarded as the council decided to defer the decision then.
Cambridge City Council,
I am writing to object to the council’s proposed tree works to trees on Alexandra Gardens along Carlyle Road.
The evidence released by the council shows there is no net subsidence in the property but a small (~1cm) amount of seasonal movement which returns to its original level over the course of a year.
Very many properties in the area experience such movement, this can be seen both by simply walking around and looking at repairs visible from the road, and has also been shown by the door-to-door survey conducted by the residents group created to try and save the trees. It is clear this movement is not restricted to the proximity of trees. The probable causes of such movement include the clay nature of the ground, which changes its properties as its moisture content changes, and may well be exacerbated by the history of the area as a brickworks surrounded by clay pits which have been filled in.
The damage to the property described appears to be primarily on the joins between the original house and the extensions. The evidence shows that the house and extension are moving seasonally different amounts. I believe the most likely explanation for these different amounts of movement is that the modern extensions have substantial foundations, whereas the main house does not.
The trees and the original house have co-existed, apparently without problems, for almost a century, and the trees have been mature for the majority of that time. I think this shows the trees are not causing a significant nuisance to the property; any influence there has been has been within that which a house built on very minimal foundations has been able to tolerate. I think that therefore a strong argument can be made that the trees are not a significant cause of damage to the home; and the main cause is the insufficient / incompatible nature of the foundations currently in place.
No evidence has been put forward that any movement is exacerbated by the presence of trees and is not simply the result of seasonal changes in the amount of water in the ground.
I would like to urge the City Council to see the claim against the council in this case as an opportunity to create a new precedent, for the rest of Alexandra Gardens, for Cambridge and for the wider UK, allowing us to move away from the position that if any roots are present, or any trees are near-by then they are blamed for cracking or subsidence. Such a new precedent has the potential to save large numbers of urban trees and to save large sums of public money.
The council’s proposals are dramatic, the removal of all the foliage from the trees in question, hacking them back to just the major branches. This will have a huge impact on the area. It will affect the appearance of the whole line of trees, and the whole park, leaving it damaged and defaced. This is a densely populated area and the trees are of great value. The trees may well, if allowed to thrive, continue to contribute to making the area pleasant place to live for a century or more to come.
I would like to remind those Liberal Democrats involved in making the decision that they have been elected on the basis of manifestos promising evidenced based decision making. I would like to stress that things like giving special weight to a report the council has commissioned, simply because the council commissioned it, or giving extra weight to an individual’s view simply because they are “esteemed” or have been awarded an OBE, are not actions based on evidence.
I am also concerned about the pressure the council may be feeling due to the actions of the insurance companies involved, and would like to urge the council to stand up to bullying in the interests of the city’s residents and the city’s trees.
I note the council has already reduced the crowns of these trees by 30% and has been keeping them under good management for very many years; I would like to see this continue.
I would like to suggest that all previous representations made to prior consultations run in relation to these trees be incorporated into any future reports. And that this, and others’ representations, inform all future deliberations whichever committee or individual councillor is making them. People should not have to repeatedly make representations to the council on the same issue, once should be sufficient (with updates invited as required if proposals change).
I would also like to ask that the representations submitted by my Local Councillor, Mike Todd-Jones and the resident’s campaign group both be seriously considered. These are both high quality pieces of work which have the support of large numbers of local people including myself.
Could this objection be also considered a request to speak at the committee meetings at which this matter is to be discussed? I would appreciate notification of when such meetings are scheduled, if there is any change to the timetable announced by the council of Planning Committee on the 9th of March 2011 and Community Services Scrutiny Committee on 17th March 2011. I note there is inconsistency in information from the council on the subject of which group or individual will make the final decision.
- Resident’s report challenging Dr Biddle’s conclusions; and arguing there is no evidence the trees are causing subsidence. (PDF)
- Cllr Todd-Jones’ objection letter. (PDF)
I have written a number of previous articles which provide background:
- Secret Consultation Underway on New Alexandra Gardens Trees Proposal – 5th February 2011
- Felling of Mature London Plane Trees on Alexandra Gardens Proposed – 5th September 2010
- Information Released on Alexandra Gardens Trees. 4th October 2010
- Public Meeting on Alexandra Gardens Trees – 21 October 2010