Tree Felling Starts on Midsummer Common

The Riverside Lime Tree Stump

Stump of a large Lime tree which Cllr Julie Smith, Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for Arts and Recreation, decided to fell.

On Wednesday 3rd of June the first few of the latest batch of trees to be felled on Midsummer Common were removed. This follows a decision to fell the trees which was taken by Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for Arts and Recreation. Cllr Smith took the advice of the council’s planning committee and the community services scrutiny committee prior to calling in the chainsaws. I was the only member of the public to formally oppose elements of the proposals, Labour councillor Kevin Blencowe was the only person who voted against them.

I think the council ought to have been more conservative in their approach. For example with respect to the riverside London Plane tree which was felled on Wednesday I had argued that problematic branches ought be removed initially rather than going straight to felling the whole tree. Where trees are clearly dangerous I have no objection to their felling, however I was not convinced by the council’s arguments on with respect to some of these trees.

Lime Tree Before

The Riverside Lime Tree Stump

This photograph, taken a few days before the tree was felled, shows the tree apparently in good health.

No Lime Tree After

The Riverside Lime Tree Stump

Cambridge City Council felled the large lime tree which stood here as their tree officers argued it was diseased and dangerous. They pointed to some fungus at the bottom of the trunk. They did not quantify the risk the tree posed or give any assessment of its chances of recovery.

The London Plane

The Riverside London Plane Tree Stump

This photograph shows the gap left where a London Plane Tree has been felled by Cambridge City Council. They said a primary branch was badly formed. I argued any problematic branches ought be removed and the tree given a chance to live. The council’s tree officers persuaded Executive Councillor Julie Smith this was not practical.

A reader has alerted me to the fact Andie Harper’s show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire this morning (iPlayer link – item @02:18:45)) interviewed two local residents, including Heather Coleman who were expressing reservations about the City Council’s tree felling. The interview was conducted on the stump pictured above. She commented on the large numbers of trees which have been cut down in the city over the last year or so. Another interviewee criticised the council for cutting down so many trees in the same year.

Leaning Horse Chestnut Tree in the Avenue of Trees either side of Victoria Avenue.

Midsummer Common’s leaning horse chestnut tree. This forms part of the avenue of chestnuts along Victoria Avenue.

Leaning Chestnut

One of the Horse Chestnuts on Victoria Avenue is to be felled. It has a broken root. One argument for felling it as soon as possible was that during the Strawberry Fair, which starts tomorrow, people are likely to be sitting underneath the tree. Cllr Julie Smith said that felling it before Strawberry Fair was what she wanted to do.

Since the time the decision to fell the tree, the tree has moved. At the fracture point the root attached to the tree is now about ten centimetres higher than the part of the root still in the ground. Just a couple of months ago the crack in the root was visible but the two parts of the root were at about the same level. I am very surprised this tree was not first on the council’s list to fell (now that the decision has been made to fell these trees).

Another Horse Chestnut Tree is to go near North Terrace.


These proposals to fell trees were presented to an open meeting of the Friends of Midsummer Common. I have written a full article on what was discussed at that meeting. A record of the planning meeting, at which I spoke to oppose the proposals, is available here.

More recently the council’s plans to fell even more trees on Midsummer Common (and on Jesus Green) were recently rejected at a West Central Area Committee meeting.

Cambridge City Council is currently consulting on a new policy for making decisions on tree felling. I have published my response to that consultation in which I said I wanted to see elected councillors, not unaccountable officers, making decisions on major tree works. I also asked for the council to publish information on how they assess the risk of trees as well as their general strategy and approach to tree management. The council has agreed not to go ahead with additional major tree felling and transplanting on its green spaces until the new protocol has been agreed.

Following the discussion of the Midsummer Common trees on his radio show Andie Harper commented on the area opposite the botanical gardens where the council have planted new trees. Presumably he, like many others, is unaware of the proposals to fell trees along vicar’s brook which borders that area. The City Council has not yet replied to my enquires about the current state of affairs there (it doesn’t have a culture of transparency and freedom of information).

8 responses to “Tree Felling Starts on Midsummer Common”

  1. I am also saddened to see these fellings. I actually witnessed the plane tree felling.

    If I recall correctly, the lime tree was said to be diseased according to investigations using special equipment. It is important that a post-mortem is performed on this tree to see whether it was actually seriously diseased, and so whether the diagnostic equipment they used is accurate.

  2. Stump of Chestnut Tree

    The leaning Horse Chestnut has now been felled.

    I last saw it standing, for certain, at 19:20 on the Friday night before the fair.

  3. What’s an arts and recreation person doing making essentially scientific decisions about trees and the environment? This is a disgrace. Is there anyone on your council with a vague understanding of trees and their place in improving our environment both from the air quality and aesthetic points of view?

  4. Another before and after:


    Horsechestnut Tree on Midsummer Common


    Horsechestnut Stump

    It now appears that the leaning horse chestnut in Victoria Avenue was felled on the day of Strawberry Fair. I had noted my surprise in the above article, written on the day before the fair, that this tree had not been felled before the fair. Given that safety during the fair was a main argument used for felling it and the fact the crack in the root had opened up significantly it ought in my view have been one of the first to go.

    Root Opening Up

    Basket Willow

    It appears that a riverside basket willow, which was not due for felling has been removed as part of the recent works. This tree was not one of those which councillors considered for felling so this raises questions as to if the city council’s chainsaws are under democratic control.

    Location of Basket Willow which has been felled

  5. I am horrified to read of these seemingly uninformed decisions to fell so many trees in Cambridge. Have the council taken any advice from the plant sciences dept at the university? Health and safety seem to be neat cover for not bothering with planning and easthetic factors. There are so many diseases threatening UK tress currently it seems better to wait and see what falls down or dies naturally rather than felling in advance. Non scientists should not be making these decisions.

    • totally agree its absolutely heart breaking when the trees have taken so many years to become established, Where the lime was felled, it looked a lovely riverside walk now it just looks like part of an industrial estate 🙁

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