What Can I Do?
You have now missed the (tight) deadline to comment via the Council website, so please email as many relevant City Councillors as possible. A full list is here. Here follows a list of some particularly relevant Councillors' email addresses;
Green Party Councillor, Naomi Bennet (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Alex Collis (email@example.com)
Council Leader Lewis Herbert (firstname.lastname@example.org)
West Chesterton Ward Councillors (Cllr-WestChestertonWardCouncillors@cambridge.gov.uk)
Tree Officer Matthew Magrath (Matthew.Magrath@cambridge.gov.uk)
It is urgent that you do this quickly as the decision is likely to be made before 23rd July 2021
Some relevant points you might like to make:
1. The Council Tree Strategy now followed has some major flaws and could easily be seen as a deliberate and cynical attempt to keep people in the dark. This case has been something of a learning curve for the Council and when it’s concluded, the method will be reviewed. In the meantime, these trees could be forfeited and if that's due to an inadequate or inappropriate, process you can imagine how utterly let down and angry people will feel.
2. No public consultation; just an opportunity to comment on a plan of action that has already been agreed in principle and without any real information to base those comments on.
3. No public notification; it is not enough to simply make ward councillors aware, put the works schedule is on the website and assume the information will filter through!
4. No information; the tree work schedule barely outlines the matter. Documentation has been requested but not forthcoming. I was told that even if it is released, it’s likely that extensive redaction would leave little useful information. Not having access to details of the claim means objective response is impossible.
5. No time; the council have been aware of this matter since 2018, residents should have been notified sooner and given longer to respond. If the claims details had been provided, proper consideration of them within the deadline - extended to 18 days, would’ve been impossible. The Comment Box on the council’s website is limited to just 500 characters and further impedes response.
6. Financial; The decision is based on the balance sheet. There has been heavy investment in maintaining the trees up to this point and the cost of underpinning two houses in previous years must be taken into account when deciding what happens next. If the trees are cut at this stage, the money spent so far will be money down the drain.
7. The council tells us it has a duty as a Good Neighbour, to cut the trees. The council should also consider its duty to its many neighbours who do not want the them cut.
8. Managed decline; The council makes no bones about the effect of what’s proposed; the trees will be an eyesore; extreme cutting is not without risk and could also have a detrimental impact on the neighbouring trees in the row. It’s suggested that we should regard the cutting and any ensuing problems it causes, as the beginning of the trees ‘managed decline’. That’s a very cynical way of looking at it because if left unmutilated, they could easily live for another 150 years!
9. The ten planes growing along the Carlyle edge of Alexandra Gardens are notable trees. The cohesion and undisputed beauty of the complete row makes them a huge community asset, in 2011 a Capital Asset Valuation of Amenity Trees (CAVAT) put that figure at £1.7million. It may not be possible to realise that figure in terms of hard cash but then some things have a value that goes beyond money. This description from the city council itself, hits the nail on the head; "the continuous line of trees provides an effective screen from the outside world and ensures the Gardens are a secluded place in which to relax...the trees are a significant public resource...each tree is a fine specimen, collectively they create an impressive and statuesque feature...their upper canopies are visible over the rooftops from the surrounding streets."
Words that say a lot - applicable terms used by arboriculturalists, to describe Trees of Special Interest;
Heritage Trees those having historical, archaeological or cultural associations, aesthetic appearance, landscape character or architectural setting. They may be of exceptional importance because they make a particular design statement. They may also be groups of trees such as found in avenues and can be well loved landmarks in local communities. Notable Trees are usually magnificent mature trees which stand out in their local environment because they are large by comparison with other trees around them, most notable trees will be worthy of recognition regionally or locally.
This from the council's report on the Holland Street claim in 2010.
5.0 CONSULTATIONS 5.1 In accordance with the Protocol the following were consulted: City and County Ward Councillors for Castle Cambridge Past, Present and Future Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust Cambridge Friends of the Earth Save our Spaces Jesus Green Association Friends of Midsummer Common Chesterton Residents Association Victoria Park Residents Group Christ’s Pieces Residents Association Brunswick and Kite Association 529 Residents in neighbouring streets from Chesterton Road to Victoria Road were consulted. 5.2 Notices were placed on the trees and at all the entrances to the open space.
Please help us in our campaign to preserve the unity and beauty of this late Victorian/Edwardian park, planned over a century ago for the benefit of future generations.