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Dead tree public art on Cambridge housing development branded ‘grim metaphor for the death of nature’




A plan to install dead trees as public art in a new Cambridge housing development has been condemned as a “grim metaphor” for the “death of nature” by an environmental campaigner.

And the proposals have met with consternation from local residents’ associations who question whether this is the right message for a city already dealing with water shortages causing trees to die.

But the city council has approved the scheme, which will see the trees “debarked” and placed in a play area.

Dead trees as public art in a new Cambridge housing development. (50549171)
Dead trees as public art in a new Cambridge housing development. (50549171)

Retired teacher Monica Hone, now a full-time environmental campaigner, said: “I think this is a grim metaphor. I mean, here they are building all these houses where we’ve got no water. Basically, a lot of the trees are already dying. And what do they do? They put these dead trees, as a display of some kind. How do they expect people to interpret that?

“Every time I looked at it, I would just think of the death of the environment, death of nature, death of biodiversity. Maybe that was the artist’s message.”

Wendy Blythe, chair of the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations (FECRA), added: “Local people know too well that nature is not protected, there are dead trees all over the city, there is not enough water for a start.”

She called the project a “slap in the face” for people concerned about the fate of trees being cut down on building sites across the city.

The project is part of a public art strategy for the next phase of homes being built at Trumpington Meadows by Barratt Homes. The strategy, which includes the trees, is estimated to cost £42,000.

Cllr Alex Collis, executive councillor for open spaces at the city council, said: “Of course dead trees aren’t intrinsically a good idea – as you’ll know, we (the city council) are doing what we can, with our tree strategy, to ensure healthy canopy cover for the city and of course we are all aware of the benefits of trees in terms of air quality and biodiversity.

“I actually spent some really useful time last week with Monica Hone where we walked around Abbey and discussed a number of issues around water quality, chalk streams and tree health.

“However, this installation has ensured that the tree in question hasn’t simply been abandoned and can prompt children to connect with and play in this area.”

A spokesperson for Barratt Homes Eastern Counties said: “The joint development control committee approved this strategy in September 2010 and the designs were subsequently approved by Cambridge City Council.

“The designs have since been amended by the appointed art consultants to create something that fulfils the original strategy. Revised designs for the public art are in accordance with the approved strategy and the features are located as a link between the natural habitat of the neighbouring country park and the residential areas.”



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