Trees to be Felled for Temporary Car Park on Jesus Green

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009. 7:56pm

Plan for Compound on Jesus Green

On the 12th of February 2009 EDF Electricity applied to Cambridge City Council for planning permission to set up a compound on Jesus Green for them to use during work on the substation by the Glassworks gym. The proposed compound is to be located between the tennis courts and the path which runs between Portugal Street and Jesus Lock. Four established trees which make up part of the tree avenue on either side of that path are to be removed, along presumably with the recently planted sapling in the middle of the site.

When the compound is removed it is proposed that the City Council will replace all twenty six cherry trees in the avenue. The planning application says this is an existing City Council plan, but it was not part of the lottery bid which has been submitted – see the council’s plan which shows only one tree in the avenue being replaced. This brings the total number of trees under threat on Jesus Green up from fifty nine to eighty five.

The plans comprise:

  • Ten Parking Spaces
  • Two, Two-Story Portacabin Buildings
  • A 2.4m high solid board fence, painted olive green, around the site.
  • A new “Lay-by” off Park Parade
  • Halogen Lighting
  • Permanent Security Presence
  • Toilets
  • Containers to be used for storage

The proposal is for the compound to remain on Jesus Green for a year and a half.

A major electricity main runs under Midsummer Common and Jesus Green; work is to be done on the substation at the city end of this cable.

The application states:

The majority of Cambridge City Centre is supplied from a primary electrical substation located on Thompson’s lane.[Photo below] The transformers and electrical equipment on this site are now reaching the end of their life and EDF propose to replace the equipment in order to accommodate future increased demand and to maintain the reliability of the supply.

The existing electrical compound is highly constrained by adjacent developments and the available space will be occupied by temporary transformer arrangements to maintain the supply during the course of the works.

Options which I would have liked considered include placing the portacabins on the grass strip between Park Parade and the tennis courts, this area can be accessed by existing gates and has been used previously for similar compounds. Any additional storage and parking space required could perhaps be found within Park Street car park. Some storage/parking on the road would I believe be preferable to using the green.

It appears however that only nominal alternatives have been considered. A vacant site on Castle Street being ruled out as being too far away, and sites on Jesus Green accessed off Victoria Avenue rejected both for aboricultural reasons and remoteness from the Thompson’s lane site.

The requirement for this compound arises from poor forward planning on the part of the City Council who allowed building on the site of the electricity substation (apparantly this decision was contrary to the officer advice). We have to consider, at the early stages, the effect of development on the city’s infrastructure. Councillors ought to take a greater interest in the provision of our utilities, addressing matters such as policies for cutting off heating to vulnerable people through to poor service and misleading advertising from from Virgin Media as well as issues such as those which led to the requirement for this compound.

Comments on the proposal can be sent to Cambridge City Council Planning Officer Mr Tony Collins via tony.collins at citing the reference number 09/0087/FUL. It would also be worth contacting City Councillors asking them to make sure they consider the proposals and don’t leave it to officers.

Site of the Proposed Compound

Site of Proposed Compound on Jesus Green

Site of Previous Compounds

My Suggested Site of Proposed Compound on Jesus Green

Thompson’s Lane Substation, Cambridge

Thompson's Lane Substation, Cambridge.

5 comments/updates on “Trees to be Felled for Temporary Car Park on Jesus Green

  1. Richard Article author

    I have written to the Heritage Lottery Fund drawing their attention to these plans, and the other threats to Jesus Green which have emerged since the bid submission. I didn’t think the bid could be fairly assessed without knowledge of the council’s additional plans which were not included in the lottery bid or the consultation which accompanied it.

    I have been assured that my comments and the matters I have raised will be considered in assessment of the bid.

  2. Richard Article author

    I have submitted the below to Cambridge City Council:

    I would like to register my objection to planning application 09/0087/FUL for an EDF electricity compound on Jesus Green.

    Paragraph 4.2 of the local plan states:

    The setting of Cambridge and its open spaces are an essential part of the character and quality of Cambridge. The protection of these and the features within them is essential if Cambridge is to maintain that quality.

    This reflects the enormous importance placed on open spaces, such as Jesus Green, by Cambridge’s residents, businesses and visitors. These proposals will remove an area of green space for a period of a year and a half and detract from the appearance and amenity of neighbouring open space. The felling of reasonably mature trees will also result in these proposals having an impact for decades into the future.

    The application states: “…in accordance with a request by the arboricultural department, at the end of the project 23 mature bird cherry and ornamental cherry trees forming the avenue towards Jesus Green sluice will be replaced with 26 cherry trees…” However when I asked about this at the West Central Area committee on Thursday the 5th of March the council’s director of environment and planning stated that this was not the council’s plan. I would like to suggest that the planning officers’ report ought contain a clear statement of the council’s intentions with respect to these trees.

    I think that to fell even two trees for this compound would be disproportional, to fell the whole avenue as a result of allowing this application would be vandalism. It would be directly contrary to the aim of protecting the city’s green space and the features within them.

    I would like to suggest that the planning officers’ report on this application considers in detail how we came to be in the position of needing to find space for this work and why building was permitted on the site of the Thompson’s Lane substation not leaving enough room to enable the maintenance of the city’s key infrastructure.

    It appears to me that only nominal alternatives to the proposed site have been considered. Options which I would have liked considered include placing the portacabins on the grass strip between Park Parade and the tennis courts, this area can be accessed by existing gates and has been used previously for similar compounds. Any additional storage and parking space required could perhaps be found within Park Street car park. Some storage/parking on the road would I believe be preferable to using the green. I think the reasons why council officers had not discussed such options with EDF should be covered in the report.

    Clearly maintaining Cambridge’s electricity supply is of paramount importance, so council officers ought work with EDF to find ways to complete this work without undue impact on the city.

    I am concerned that formal notification of this planning application has been very limited. There was a site notice but I think there ought to have been site notices at the more popular entrances to Jesus Green, I also think notifications ought to have been sent to many more households. The fact these proposals have been covered in major articles in the local press show the level of public interest, the council’s publicity of these plans has not been commensurate with that.

    As I believe that planning ought be a democratic and not a judicial process, I welcomed Cllr Julie Smith’s statement to the West/Central Area Committee on the 5th of March in which she said the council, including the leader Ian Nimmo-Smith, were opposed to this application and were determined not to allow the compound on Jesus Green. I note that this prompted another member of the public to ask if objections were still necessary.

    Richard Taylor

  3. Anne Garvey

    Thank Goodness there is a democratic monitor for these appalling and vandalistic proposals. Delighted that Julie Smith is to champion alternatives to the wholesale destruction of the Green. It cannot recover from this assault and the eyesore will be horrific.

    Again well done Richard for keeping us up to date . Sites notices must be made compulsory for the sake of local democracy.

  4. Martin, Cambridge

    The city council’s website now has a statement:

    EDF Energy (through MLM Consulting Engineers) has submitted a planning application to use Jesus Green for a temporary site compound for works required at Thompson’s Lane sub station.

    As this is a valid planning application, it will be considered by the city council in the same way as any other planning application.

    However, the city council is the owner of Jesus Green, and EDF would need the council’s consent as landowner to use Jesus Green for this purpose.

    Even if the council gave its consent as landowner, it would not be enough: as registered common land, Jesus Green has special statutory protection and the land could not be used as a compound without the approval of the secretary of state.

    The city council has written to MLM Consulting Engineers to confirm that it cannot give permission for the use of Jesus Green for the proposed compound.

    Executive Councillor for Arts and Recreation Julie Smith said: “It is extremely unfortunate that this application for planning permission came forward, given that Jesus Green is common land and hence the council doesn’t have the power to permit the sort of development EDF proposes.

    “It has clearly caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety for local residents and others concerned about Jesus Green.”

  5. Richard Article author

    I have now been sent the officer’s report and reasons for refusal.

    The comments from the council’s tree officer indicate that it was on their suggestion that the area between the tennis courts and Park Parade was not use; on the grounds of risk to the Lime Trees.

    Representations were received from 87 households, some households submitted multiple representations.

    Summing up on trees the officer writes:

    The Principal Arboricultural Officer (PAO) supports the proposal by the applicants to fell and replace the entire avenue of trees because the current trees have limited life expectancy and a new avenue of Great White Cherries would enhance the quality of the Green for approximately 70 years. Many respondents have expressed vehement opposition to this aspect of the application, but in my view this may arise from a lack of knowledge about the present trees’ expected life span.

    The officer states: “no proper analysis of the shortcomings of the possible site in Castle Street is offered, nor are any other possible sites examined” and suggests the following have been overlooked:

    * Renting office space nearby
    * Using the public car park
    * Using public toilets
    * Disaggregating the compound into a number of smaller spaces which could be accommodated elsewhere
    * Storing materials elsewhere until immediately before they are required
    * Reducing vehicle journeys to the site to a lower level by more public transport use

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