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Relief after Cambridge park’s mature trees saved from the chop

Three much-loved trees in a Cambridge city cark have been given a last minute reprieve from being felled after councillors voted unanimously to save them today (Wednesday, November 1).

The 125-year-old London Plane trees at St Matthew’s Piece in Petersfield ward were under threat of being chopped down after the insurers of a house on Sturton Street claimed their roots were damaging the foundations.

Campaigners against tree felling at St Matthews Piece. Picture: Keith Heppell
Campaigners against tree felling at St Matthews Piece. Picture: Keith Heppell

However, councillors at a Cambridge City Council planning committee meeting unanimously voted against the officer’s recommendation to fell the trees after receiving dozens of objections from residents.

Val Neal, a member of Friends of St Matthew’s Piece said the decision was an “enormous relief” and added “A thorough and penetrating debate took place about many aspects of the application to fell these three trees. All of the voting planning committee members diligently interrogated the complex issues objectively. Most made a point of specifically mentioning the many emails they had received directly from local residents – these clearly had an important impact.

“We must all remain vigilant, to continue to ensure these precious trees last another 125 years – and more!”

Around 40 members of the public attended the committee meeting, many holding banners and placards in support of saving the trees, and they lined the outer rows of the main council chamber.

The meeting heard speeches in defence of the trees by the Friends of St Matthew’s Piece, as well as all three Labour Petersfield ward Councillors – Mike Davey, Richard Robertson and Katie Thornburrow – as well as Jean Glasberg (environmental spokesperson for the Green Party).

Planning officers had recommended that councillors vote to approve the felling of the trees due to damage to the foundations of a house on Sturton Street, which reports said had been caused by the trees’ roots. A summary report to the planning committee from officers says: “Expert opinion has been requested from an independent structural engineer. The structural engineer has confirmed technical data supports a causal link between the trees and damage to the building and that the risk of heave associated with tree removal is minimal.”

It added: “Consideration has been given to underwriting possible cost associated with refusing permission but the financial consequences of doing so, or of refusing consent were, at the time of the previous committee report, not considered to be justified.”

However, to the delight of many residents, councillors voted against the recommendation.

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