Extinction Rebellion Cambridge activists dig up Trinity College lawn
Extinction Rebellion activists are digging up the lawn outside Trinity College this morning (Monday, February 17).
Campaigners have taken to the lawn around Newton’s Apple Tree and are digging up the ground with spades. One protester has chained themselves to the tree.
Grass and soil dug up from the Trinity College lawn was then dumped on the floor inside Barclays Bank on St Andrew’s Street.
The group say they are taking action to highlight the college’s “collusion in the destruction of nature” at Innocence Farm in Suffolk.
Trinity College says it respects the right to freedom of speech and non-violent protest and asked the protesters to leave.
It said in a statement: “Trinity College regrets the criminal damage done to its property beside Great Gate.
“The college respects the right to freedom of speech and non-violent protest but draws the line at criminal damage and asked the protestors to leave. The college is liaising with the police.
“Academics at Trinity are actively engaged in research to understand and develop solutions to climate change, and taking practical steps forward. The college fully supports the University initiative, Cambridge Zero.”
Extinction Rebellion say Trinity College, who own Innocence Farm in Suffolk, has recently been in talks with the Port of Felixstowe about the development of a lorry park for 3,000 vehicles on the site.
Although this has been turned down by planning officers, the group say the college also wishes to allow a housing development of around 300 properties at the farm.
“Trinity bought the Trimley Estate in 1933 with a long view to commercial and residential development. Their timeline of 85 years points to an underlying intention to sell every acre of the Trimley Estate for high-value residential use and profit. Development of the land would be highly profitable to Trinity College, increasing the value of the estate significantly,” a statement from Extinction Rebellion said.
On their website, Kirton and Trimley Community Action Group (KATCAG), who are fighting plans for the site, said: “We note Bidwells are advertising this land for sale already, ahead of any approval of the Local Plan. Many will agree this indicates a high level of collusion between the Council and Trinity College. Also, the consultation process is clearly a sham, as the decision to include Innocence Farm would seem pre-determined.
“One suspects Trinity College wish to be granted any form of planning consent for Innocence Farm, as long as it’s not for the purpose of farming! Innocence Farm (approximately 112 hectares) is worth approximately £2.352m to Trinity College with the existing planning consent. If developed for Office or Industrial use it would be worth £67.76m.”
In 2017, Trinity also demanded that the proportion of any affordable homes built on the site should be reduced from a third to 17% to make the enterprise commercially “viable” for them.
Tom Dorrington, a member of Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge, said: “This greedy venture just shows that the college cares more about profit than it does about protecting the environment or even about providing homes for ordinary people to live in. The college was founded after Henry VIII seized the monasteries and it is sickening to see that its history of theft continues into the 21st century.”
Protestors say they are being careful to ensure that the digging took place a safe distance from the tree so it will not cause any damage to it.
Police attended the scene including Superintendent James Sutherland.
A statement from Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: “We are liaising with Trinity College. A crime has been recorded for criminal damage.”
Derek Langley, a member of Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, said: “Nature is not just beautiful to look at, it is vital in sustaining a functioning biosphere. Biodiversity loss is just as big a problem as climate breakdown and the world simply cannot sustain further damage to our ecosystems. “We are in the middle of a climate and environmental emergency and the idea that a rich institution like Trinity College, which tells the world it is serious about tackling this crisis, is looking for profit from environmental destruction is quite simply astonishing.
“I take part in actions like this because I want to protect the world for my grandchildren and Trinity College is putting their future at risk.”
The action is part of a series of “satellite” actions the group is carrying out in as part of its youth-led Rebel for Justice protest.
In January, Extinction Rebellion’s local youth wing, XR Youth Cambridge, issued an ultimatum to Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and the University of Cambridge.
The group warned it would cause major disruption unless three demands are met:
- The University of Cambridge must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry.
- Cambridge City Council must hold a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Justice.
- Cambridgeshire County Council must work with other relevant regional authorities to provide a plan for a just transition away from an inadequate transport system reliant on fossil fuels