Cambridge City Council has plans to conduct major tree works on Lammas Land; the area between the City Centre and Newnham bounded by the River Cam, Fen Causeway and Newnham Road. The council plans to fell eighteen trees, of which only eight are to be replaced.
The proposals include felling trees on the grounds that they are too close to the tennis courts. A number of trees which currently shield both the bowling green and the tennis courts from the surrounding roads are to be removed. Many of those to be felled are perfectly healthy trees, in respect of some the council is concerned that trimming the trees to keep them away from the tennis court will make them less than perfect specimens. Replacements are not proposed for most of those trees which are to be removed from the area around the tennis courts.
The very large and imposing trees on the corner of Newnham Road and Barton Road are also under threat of removal due to the presence of fungus near the base of the tree. A number of apparently healthy vigorous young trees elsewhere on Lammas Land are also to be removed.
Some of the other trees scheduled for removal are in the latter stages of their lives and are deteriorating. I want to see the council proactively removing such trees before they fall down. One of my main concerns about the proposals is the lack of a clear plan for planting trees for the long term future in the area, not enough consideration has been given to new planting in my view.
Three consultation documents available from deep within the council’s website go some-way towards describing what is proposed, though it is necessary to visit the site to really appreciate the effects of the proposals and the condition of the trees:
It appears that the councils tree officers, and perhaps councillors, have decided that these works are not significant enough to warrant a public meeting as one is not mentioned on the relevant council webpage. I am surprised by this given the obvious large impact the works would have.
At the West Central Area committee on the 30th of April 2009 the Executive Councillor responsible for green spaces Julie Smith gave clear instructions to the council’s tree officers telling them to show her, and allow her to approve, future tree felling proposals including ideas which are to be consulted on before they are made public. Given that statement either the officers are out of control, or Cllr Smith supports the currently proposed fellings.
I have however been told that Cllr Julie Smith, who represents Newnham on the City Council has recently asked officers to conduct proper consultation, along the lines of the ones she promised would occur in July for planning the future of trees on Jesus Green, Midsummer Common and New Square. Cllr Smith’s assurance that such an event would take place did not result in action there, and if she has in fact ordered such public engagement with respect to the Lammas Land trees, the public consultation has not been delayed to await its completion. Having heard of Cllr Smith’s insistence on better consultation I was surprised to see the public consultation period going ahead. Both signs on Lammas Land and documents posted on the council’s website indicate that a formal ten day period of public consultation ended on the 10th of August 2009.
I have not been able to post this article in time to help alert others to the formal consultation, however I expect that my objection – and any others which may have been submitted will result in councillors, rather than officers, making the decisions relating to the Lammas Land trees, it should also result in the decision being taken to one or more public meetings at which anyone can attend and put forward their point of view.
My Letter of Objection
Dear Simon Payne, Director of Environment and Planning at Cambridge City Council,
I am writing to respond to the currently open public consultation on the proposed tree works on Lammas Land. I would like to formally object to the proposals. My main reason for objecting is that I believe decisions on significant tree works such as these ought be made in public, at a council meeting, by elected councillors. As I understand it, according to the council’s tree works protocol, a formal objection is required to prevent council officers from going ahead with the work without this happening.
I note that the council’s tree officers appear to have determined that these works did not warrant a meeting to explain the proposals (the council has not provided such a meeting prior to the public consultation). I would like to see more detailed consultation, including a presentation of the councils long term plans for the area, and would hope that objecting and thereby delaying the work for a period would enable this. I think there has been far too little consideration of planning planting for the future of this space included in the proposals. I feel the consultation so far has been very low key, and has been conducted during a period when many are on holiday.
Some of the trees are in the latter stages of their lives and are deteriorating and I completely agree that trees in city centre public spaces such as this ought to be felled before they fall down. Trees 97 and 204 are clearly trees which it is time to fell, however felling some of the others simply because they are too close to the tennis courts or threaten the perfect formation of nearby trees is in my view getting excessively chainsaw happy.
- Trees 150 and 146 – Norway maples adjacent to the foot and cycle path to the north of the bowling green.
The report recommends felling these trees as they are becoming contorted as a result of growing too near other trees. I disagree that this is problem. It is highly desirable for the tree planting to be dense in this area as it shields the bowling green from the path and roads. I would rather have the trees present and slightly misshapen, than removed. I believe the trees currently help to create an environment which it is pleasant to walk and cycle through.
- Trees surrounding the tennis court.
I disagree that these trees’ structures will be damaged by trimming them to keep them off the tennis court to such an extent that they need to be felled. I think the benefits of this screen being in place far outweigh whatever problem there is with keeping the trees clear of the tennis court. I would not object to one or two trees being removed to thin out the planting and give the remaining trees a better chance of developing into great trees with a long life expectancy, but feel the current proposals involve too much felling.
- Tree 217 – Purple leaf Norway maple
This recently planted young tree looks vigorous and healthy to me, I therefore disagree with the council officers’ contention that it is in terminal decline. If councillors did agree with the officers I would suggest and support replacing the tree with one of about the same size – a like for like replacement – this might be a good idea if the chances of a good quality tree growing in this spot could be increased.
- Tree 33 – Silver maple
This is exactly the kind of decision which I think ought be made by councillors, on the basis of advice from experts. I think that the value of this tree has been increased by the loss of its neighbor. The council needs to publically decide just how much risk it is prepared to take, and determine if this tree is too likely to fall over, or have a major branch split suddenly or not. My inclination would be to leave it until / unless it poses a significant immediate threat.
- Trees 94 and 95 – the Substantial false acacia trees at the Newnham Road / Barton Road Junction
I support the proposal to reduce the crowns of these trees, if the expert view is that this will extend the life of the trees. If it felling is not urgent, I do not think councillors ought yet give permission for these trees to be removed, but they ought wait to hear what is found by those performing the crown reduction. I was dismayed to read that the council’s officers used their invasive ultrasound device (it involves bashing 10-12 nails into the tree around the base), on these trees and feel that can’t have done them any good. The presence of the fungal fruiting bodies on the outside of the tree was enough to tell them what was going on, and many trees survive for a long time with fungus growing on them.
- Tree 97 False acacia by the Newnham Road parking area
I agree with the officer’s report which states: “The tree is in decline, approx 40% of the crown has died back and the annual new growth on live branches is exceptionally short.” I think it needs to be felled, there’s no point taking six meters off the top as one option suggests as this will leave nothing worth keeping.
- Tree 204 – False acacia on Fen Causeway
I agree that this tree is in decline and ought to be felled.
- Tree 124 – Red flowering horse chestnut
I agree that this tree is in decline and ought to be felled.
Recent events on Lammas Land – where trees have fallen, or significant branches have split apparently without the council’s officers having taken action in advance show that however much care and attention is paid to trees sometimes they will unexpectedly fall down. I would like to urge councillors to err more on the side of keeping trees rather than felling them than they have been doing recently.
[I supplied my full name and address]
I had a number of concerns with respect to the way the consultation was run:
- The consultation was buried deep on the council’s website, it was not listed on the council’s consultations page and there was no press release.
- Not all the relevant trees on the map are numbered (eg. 15, 98,99) and the different colouring of trees does not as far as I can tell relate to the current proposed work.
- There were relatively few photographs and diagrams in the report, making it harder than it needed to be to interpret.
- The site notice states that objections are to be addressed to the council’s Director of Environment and planning but do not give his name or email address. The council’s webpage does not state clearly who objections ought be made to.
- There was no reference to the council’s proposed tree fellings on adjacent land at both Vicar’s Brook and Paradise.
West Central Area Committee
The West/Central Area committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday the 20th of August at 7:30pm in the Castle End Mission, Pound Hill, Cambridge. Its agenda is due to be published on the 13th of August, so it is not yet known by those outside the Liberal Democrat ruling group if any tree items will be on it. Regardless of if trees are on the agenda I intend to use the opportunity for members of the public to question councillors to ask the following:
- Did Cllr Julie Smith approve the plans for tree works on Lammas Land before they were made available to the public? If she did not and officers published them without her approval despite her clear instructions to them, in public, at the April West/Central area committee – what is she going to do to bring the council’s tree officers under her control? Why were the proposals for Lammas Land not considered significant enough to justify a public meeting in advance of the consultation period? Can there now be a public meeting, and can planting with regard to the long term future of the space be given proper consideration?
- When and how will the council be consulting on the proposals for tree works on Jesus Green / Midsummer Common / New Square. Did the “large tree seminar in July” which Cllr Julie Smith promised at the April West Central area committee take place? If if did why wasn’t it publicised, and if it did not – when is it now to be held?
- I’d also like to ask for an update on the proposed tree fellings at Vicar’s Brook though I doubt there will be time, and technically, although council officers got it wrong, those trees appear to me to be in Trumpington – and not in the West/Central area.
The report on the proposed Lammas land fellings also revealed that the council’s tree scanner is a Picus Sonic Tomograph, using it involves hammering a ring of nails into the base of a tree.