Proposed Felling, Planting and Transplanting of Trees on Jesus Green


Tuesday, April 28th, 2009. 9:10pm

Three Cherry Trees to be Felled First
Following the rejection by the Heritage Lottery Fund of Cambridge City Council’s bid for £4.4 million pounds worth of work on Jesus Green which would have involved the felling of fifty-nine trees a new proposal for tree works has been published. The new proposals involve felling eight trees immediately and transplanting a further twenty-eight (six of which will be lost from the green). On top of that the twenty-six tree cherry tree avenue will also go.

Summary

  • This is not about removing dying or dangerous trees, it is about the council’s vision for the future of Jesus Green.
  • The proposals are for trees to be felled or transplanted so that the end result is predominately trees in straight lines. All scattered planting is to be removed. I don’t share the council’s view that trees have to be in straight lines. (The council’s view isn’t consistent. There are current proposals for informal planting on Midummer Common of the sort the plans call for removing from Jesus Green)
  • The plans show a clear intent to fell the existing twenty-six tree cherry tree avenue between Portugal Place and Jesus Lock. The urgency of this work, and the intended timescale, is not made clear.
  • There are proposals to reinstate a beech avenue. I support making this avenue a strong feature. I’m not convinced it needs to be all beech though.
  • The council is proposing removing all five young oaks from Jesus Green, I think they could be kept.
  • Riverside planting proposals are for thirteen new lime trees, I think a range of appropriate species ought be used rather than just limes..
  • Maintaining the Horse Chestnut Avenue alongside Victoria Avenue ought be a priority. I do not think a line of elm or plane ought be planted to try and replace it, and a line of cherries on Jesus Green behind the avenue is no substitute.
  • It is excellent the council is considering planning for Jesus Green’s next century.
  • There is a lack of clarity on how and when decisions relating to these tree plans will be made.
  • There is a need for further explanation of elements of the plans and an expansion of the reasoning behind some proposals.

The Cherry Tree Avenue

Cherry Trees Avenue

While the plans are unclear; what I believe is proposed is:

  1. The immediate felling of three cherry trees. (Pictured above)
  2. The planting of new cherry trees in-between the existing trees.
  3. The felling of all the existing cherry trees.

Cherry trees don’t last forever and if interspersed new planting followed by felling the existing trees once the new trees are established is what is proposed then I support that. However I would like to see a convincing argument first that it is necessary to do this now. I would like to see estimates of the life-span of the existing trees. Having looked at the trees myself I cannot see any urgency to act. While I’m open to an argument by experts that it needs to be done now, they have not made such an argument in the proposal. I do not think this work ought start until it has to.

Part of the proposals are to fell three of the cherry trees on the avenue straight away. I oppose this felling. I cannot understand why this is proposed and wonder if it is to make room for a new games area or tennis court. I have noticed this spring that one of the other cherry trees appears to be in rather poor health, this is not mentioned; it is three apparently healthy trees which are proposed to be felled.

The Plane Tree Avenue

The council is thankfully not proposing to take its chainsaws to any of the plane trees.

It is proposing to plant four new trees in the gaps. I generally support the proposals for managing this avenue. Though:

  • I believe six rather than just four trees could be planted
  • I would like an assurance that no trees will be felled until absolutely necessary
  • The proposal states: “there will come a time when the majority of trees will have to be felled”. I think this ought be avoided. If we are fortunate and the trees die/fail over a period of half a century then replacements can be planted over that period. I do not think there will be any need for mass fellings in the next few decades.

The Path from Lower Park Street to Victoria Avenue

Previous, and proposed, beech avenue site

A previously planted beech tree avenue no-longer exists, however some original trees remain. I fully support the idea of creating a new fine axis of substantial trees along the line, with the aim of them becoming a dominant feature when the plane trees are in decline (hopefully not for some time yet).

The council is proposing moving the young beech trees from the Park Parade boundary into this axis and generally undoing the informal planting of scattered trees around this path, both near Lower Park Street and at the other end near Victoria Avenue. I don’t think there’s any harm in trees not being in straight lines. They’re proposing undoing their informal planting on Jesus Green, yet their proposals for Midsummer Common include huge swathes of such informal planting.

As the beech trees will be of vastly varying ages I don’t think there would be any harm in trees of other species both along this line, and adjacent to it. Neither do I see any harm in planting different trees, of appropriately scaled species, at different points in this avenue, though a sector of it in similarly aged beech sounds like a good idea.

The Oaks

There is a fantastic young oak tree on the green at the Lower Park Street end of Jesus ditch, as it is a few meters out of the line of trees into the open space it’s well placed to grow unencumbered by trees along the path. I think it makes a good counter-point to the avenues, and provides some diversity. It also has the potential to last for the best part of a millennium or more. I would like to see it kept. I would also like to see a few more oaks either on, or just off, this axis, or retained in their current locations.

While the council is proposing undoing its informal scattered planting on Jesus Green, just a few meters away on Midsummer Common it is proposing new swathes of scattered planting. It is changing its mind and being inconsistent; something which isn’t appropriate when it comes to trees.

I oppose the council’s plan to rid Jesus Green of all its youthful and thriving oak trees.

The Horse Chestnut Avenue (Either side of Victoria Avenue)

Victoria Avenue, Cambridge, Horse Chestnuts

I was shocked to see the trees marked on the plans as “Existing Trees (various species)”. They might be various chestnut species but they’re clearly very similar and ought be treated together. The proposals do discuss this area in more detail, and it is one area where alternative options are clearly presented to councillors.

To me the Horse Chestnut Avenue is one of the major features of the area; second only to the Plane Tree Avenue.

I oppose the apparent proposal to plant a line of elm or plane trees behind, or inline with the current Horse Chestnuts. This is a reversal of the current action of planting new Chesnuts in the avenue in gaps, I support the continuation of the current policy.

I think the proposed set-back cherry tree line, or replacing some felled chestnuts with limes has the potential to detract from the Horse Chestnut Avenue, and is not a worthy replacement for it. This appears to be a half baked proposal to replant the avenue by planting behind the existing trees; such a widened avenue, especially a cherry tree one, will not have the canopies meeting across Victoria Avenue and that’s a feature which I think is worth keeping. There is no matching proposal for planting behind the avenue on Midsummer Common in any-case. I don’t think a cherry tree line is any better in terms of effect than the current scattered planting.

I strongly support the plan to transplant some of the Horse Chestnuts planted in a scattered fashion into the Avenue. These could be used on the Green, on Midsummer Common, and outside Jesus College. The whole of the Horse Chestnut tree avenue along Victoria Avenue needs to be considered as one, existing and emerging gaps need to continue to be filled (as has been started).

Horse Chestnuts grow quite quickly, and if we can transplant some in from other locations the avenue can be broadly maintained as the existing trees fail. Again I think felling the trees ought be left until absolutely essential.

The Lawson Cypress (leylandii)

Cypress trees to be felled

The council is proposing to fell these trees saying:

They contribute little in terms of the landscape or amenity, failing to screen the Tennis Courts or enhance the conservation area and surrounding buildings.

I think they do have a role, they block the view of the ugly buildings on Thompson’s Lane from the Green. They might even block some traffic noise from Chesterton Road houses to Thompson’s Lane and Park Parade. Conversely though they do block the river-view from various houses.

Clearly someone planted them there for a reason.

I have no strong views on these trees, though I would tend towards leaving things alone. If neighboring property owners wanted them removed (or kept) I’d support their views.

The Hornbeam Feature Tree

The council’s tree officers appear to have had an outbreak of common sense here writing:

The hornbeam should be retained. The hornbeam is at the extremity of the avenue and could be retained without interrupting the row. It is an established tree and a feature. Whilst its retention interrupts the line of lime and the cherry avenue it is considered unacceptable to fell a healthy tree with a long life expectation unless the community and Members recommend that it should be removed in the long- term interests of the design of the tree planting for the next century.

I hope no members decide to put the “design of the tree planting” ahead of the retention of this fabulous tree; and I’m pretty sure if they did so they’d not be reflecting the views of those who elected them.

The replacement planting for the Park Parade boundary is unimaginative (more limes), I think this would be a suitable location for other “feature trees”.

Riverside

Mis-shapen but perfectly good lime tree on Jesus Green, Cambridge
There is a slightly mis-shapen but perfectly good lime tree near the bowling green marked to go. I think this tree, while unconventionally shaped is characterful, and don’t think it urgently needs felling.

The only other riverside tree marked on the plans for felling is a very poor specimen by the playground; it is clearly not thriving and no-loss.

There are proposals to plant 13 Lime Trees on the river frontage, spread all the way from La-Mimosa past the lock and pool down to Victoria Avenue. I support new planting in these locations, but would like to see more species diversity. I think a couple of weeping willows could be included, perhaps one of which could be on the river-side of the path over-hanging the water. Other appropriate species could also be selected. I question the rationale of planting in the middle of the path outside the pool, I wouldn’t want to see the path narrowed too much there.

How Will the Decision be Made?

The tree works 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 currently not clear if that committee alone will be able to authorise the works. In September 2008 the West/Central committee authorised the felling of healthy trees on Parker’s Piece to enable new consistant planting along one side of the square. Committee members then appeared disinterested and left the final decision down to negotiation between interested councillors.

Since the Parker’s Piece decision though the city council has been developing a new policy on making tree-works decisions. At a full council meeting on the 23rd of April 2009 Cllr Reid stated:

  • The new draft-policy is already in-use. (It requires public consultation and notices on trees, neither of which has happened).
  • She had received legal advice that decisions on felling trees on green spaces had to be taken by the Executive Councillor for Arts and Recreation (currently Cllr Julie Smith)

The discussion on tree felling at the full council meeting was farcical as many councillors had not read the draft policy which they were debating, it has not been published by the council.

I have asked the council to clarify how this, and other current major tree works decisions, will be made. If it is not clear by the time of Thursday’s West/Central Area Committee then public questions need to be asked on this point.

9 comments/updates on “Proposed Felling, Planting and Transplanting of Trees on Jesus Green

  1. John Lawton

    Thank Richard for your analysis of the proposals. But, will they happen?

    Page 2 of the report on environmental improvements shows that the tree works on JG, MSC and New Square are competing with other road works. My understanding is that the County normally funds these, but seems to have abrogated its responsibility. The City is therefore proposing to pick up the tag for some of these works, but this makes the funding of tree works less than likely which is a great shame.

    The report says (page 20) that there is currently no dedicated tree planting budget. It is vital that this budget be provided, rather than to try to pick up funding amongst competing road schemes.

    Note that (page 13) officers recommend “To provisionally allocate £81,700 to the
    Riverside / Abbey Road Junction Conflict Reduction Scheme”.

    Tree fans are therefore likely to be disappointed.

  2. Anne Garvey

    Amazingly good report just in time for us to go to the 30th April meeting and point out that these plans are simply the latest fashion in tree aesthetics. It’s one thing changing the letterhead on Council notepaper but the layout of trees to fit in with the trends of the moment? Madness.

  3. John Lawton

    Anne, page 2 shows a £106,000 tree budget for MC, and £40,000 for JG. This is mostly about new strategic planting. Yes, there are proposed fellings, and the three schemes must be subject to consultation, but wow, what a change from before.
    See page 20 for the full history of neglect in the city, producing the crisis we have now.
    However, no actual tree budget, this money must be competed for against other (road) schemes from the environmental schemes budget. I want to continue to press for a proper tree planting budget.

  4. Richard Article author

    I just got the plans, and the West/Central committee meeting, mentioned on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. I wrote an email which was read out drawing attention to the proposals which I described as:

    “Playing chess with the trees on Jesus Green – transplanting tens of them to arrange them in straight lines.”

  5. anne bromley

    cycling home across Jesus
    Green recently – I said to
    myself ‘what a wonderful
    place, and how beautiful are
    the trees!’

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