Proposals for Yet More Trees to be Felled on Midsummer Common and for New Planting to Encroach on the Open Space.

Cow Enjoying Licking a Chestnut Tree on Midsummer Common, Cambridge
Cambridge City Council’s tree officers have published a new plan for tree works on Midsummer Common. The proposals are being put before Cambridge City Council’s West/Central Area Committee to be held on Thursday 30 April 2009 at 1915 in the University Centre off Mill Lane. It is not clear if the final decision to go-ahead will be made at that meeting, or if any decision would have to be referred to other committees and/or the Executive Councillor. I have asked but have not yet had a response.

Some of my key questions and concerns about the proposals:

  • There is encroachment of trees into the open expanse of the common. The large city centre open area of grass is one of the key features of the common. I think tree planting ought be kept to the edges, more so than these current plans show.
  • The council appears to be planning on uprooting some relatively recently planted tress, but there is no explanation as to why.
  • Plans for the chestnut avenue do not appear properly co-ordinated with Jesus Green and outside Jesus College. The Jesus Green plans involve planting new plane or elm line trees, and a line of cherries behind the existing trees.
  • Why nettle trees? No explanation of this species choice for new planting is given.

Many of the trees on Midsummer Common are in a poor state; I think further new planting so that there are more good quality trees on the common in the future is desirable; it is excellent that the council are starting to consider the long term future of the common.

Horse Chestnut Avenue

The report states that these trees are reaching the end of their lives. But thankfully the proposal is not to get the chainsaws out just yet, saying it is “inappropriate to consider the removal of the avenue at this time”. I think trees ought only be felled when they are clearly dying or about to fail, they ought be kept as long as possible. Many of the trees look to me as if they’ve got a good few decades yet to live.

I think new chestnut trees ought be planted in the gaps, and in new gaps when they occur. I agree with the proposal to replace the newly planted non-chestnut tree in the avenue (by the cattle-grid) with chestnut.

If it is possible to transplant some chestnuts growing on Jesus Green into the avenue, as suggested in the Jesus Green proposals then this might be a great way to help maintain this avenue.

The proposals for six new elm trees, set back from the existing avenue, is not at all sufficient in my view to retain the effect of the avenue in the future. A new line of cherry trees on Jesus Green won’t in my view make a significant contribution either, certainly not provide a greater effect than the existing informal planting.

Another horse chestnut tree, apparently in addition to the condemned tree with a broken root is to be felled. The fact it is described as “vandalised” suggests it is a recently planted tree, but I would like that tree to be clearly identified.


Two trees are already scheduled for felling (the lime by the Cutter Ferry Bridge, and the Plane Tree the council say is dangerously mal-formed). I opposed these fellings as the decision to go-ahead with them was being made.

The proposals now call for the felling of eleven further riverside trees and the transplanting of a further seven.

While I support new planting along the river-side, I don’t think planting ought be doubled up with a new line of trees encroaching onto the common’s open space. I also can’t understand why the proposal appears to include removing and replacing recently planted trees.

Near Auckland Road / Parsonage Street / North Terrace

As you walk on the path from North Terrace towards cutter ferry bridge I think all planting ought be to the right of that path, between the path and home. I strongly oppose the proposed planting to the left of that path.

I think there’s an opportunity being missed to plant a clear line of new trees to the right of this path, not necessarily in a straight line, or all the same species, but still introducing a new substantial feature on this axis.

In Pictures

Lime tree to be felled by Cutter Ferry Bridge

Not all those trees about to be lost in the current round of fellings are mentioned in this report, or shown as condemned in the proposals. This makes the current proposals, taken alone, misleading. The above pictured lime tree was scanned by the council’s £12,000 ultrasound “tree death machine”, and the machine said no. Councillors on the planning committee (with the exception of Cllr Blencowe) advised the Executive Cllr Julie Smith it should go and she agreed. A slightly mishapen riverside London Plane is also to go, but again is not mentioned.

Riverside Trees
Riverside Trees

The plans are to plant more than one line of trees as has been done with two trees here already all along the river. Around nineteen new trees are proposed encroching into the common.

Some newly planted trees – shown above – are to be felled without explanation.

I think planting ought remain limited to one line of trees along the path.

Bizarrely at the same time as proposing planting new trees encroaching onto the open space, the council plans show an intent to fell the existing pair of riverside trees which are set back from the path onto the common, these are shown in the lower of the above pair of photographs.

Open Space

There are proposals for informal, scattered planting of trees in the area shown above which will result in breaking up the open space here.
I think planting ought not encroach so much on the open space, and ought be limited to the city side of the path between cutter ferry and north terrace so as to preserve the open expanse of the common in this area. While there is not a practical demand for this area to remain open as there is elsewhere due to fairs and the bonfire I think it is important not to disrupt the clear area of grass.

Path from North Terrace to Cutter Ferry

The council proposals include planting new trees on the open area to the left. I think new planting ought be limited to the right hand side of the above path. I think there is an opportunity to plant a new axis of trees in this area.

If the council want to fell something – how about getting rid of the unused white pole to the left of the path on the picture!

Gap in the Chestnut Avenue

While some gaps in the chestnut avenue have been filled, I think there are still places were new chestnuts could be introduced. Once such large gap between trees is shown in the above photo. This avenue of trees needs to be managed as one regardless of if it is on Jesus Green, Midsummer Common or as shown by the road outside Jesus College.

Trees to be felled

I believe these two riverside trees are to be felled to be replaced with other “pedestrian scale trees”. While these might not be the greatest specimens I don’t think they need to come down now; they add a lot more to the common than newly planted saplings (many describe as twigs or twiglets). If they are to go the felling ought wait until the new planting is much more established.

Tree to be felled

This tree, outside the Fort St. George, survived the recent felling of most of its neighbours but the current plans call for it to go. I disagree with the approach of the council’s tree officers which involves all their plans starting with felling trees. I do not think now is the time to fell this one.

3 responses to “Proposals for Yet More Trees to be Felled on Midsummer Common and for New Planting to Encroach on the Open Space.”

  1. So, given that these proposals only show part of the picture, is there a definitive map somewhere showing:

    (a) trees within the purview of the City Council
    (b) trees which are marked for felling (+dates)
    (c) locations of new tree plantings (+dates)


  2. Brian,

    The council hold that information on a tree database. I asked for it to be made publicly available online at a recent Community Services Scrutiny Committee at which Cllr Julie Smith said she would investigate if it could be done.

    Opposition councillors have been asking for clear presentation of the councils tree works proposals: on the council website; in consultations with local residents; and via notices on trees. Hopefully some of these items will make it into the council’s proposed new policy on making decisions regarding trees.

  3. I’ve been told that the white pole is a sewer vent.

    The City Council has a fund for public art funded by a levy of 1% on those developing new buildings. Perhaps this pole could be a candidate for an artistic makeover turning it into an attractive feature.

    Sewer Vent

    Perhaps it could be painted green at the bottom and blue-grey at the top in an effort to make it disappear.

    As we’ve got it I’d like to see the public art fund spent on improving the quality of functional items, though I don’t think that currently we ought be imposing such a levy which makes it harder for developers to build. Ultimately it makes homes more expensive. Having so much money swilling around results in silly projects being dreamed up and large payments being made to those “artists” capable of working with the bureaucracy of local government.

    Other ideas for using public art funds on the Common:

    *Ensuring any new recycling litter bins are as in-keeping, high quality and interesting as possible.

    *Perhaps more funding for tree planting could be obtained if it could be argued the trees were to be planted in an artistic manner?

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