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
This photograph, taken a few days before the tree was felled, shows the tree apparently in good health.
No Lime Tree After
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
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.
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).