Update 1st August 2023

Dear all,

Update 1st August, 2023

STOP-PRESS Urgent message re St Matthew’s Piece Trees – STILL Under threat – Planning Committee meeting tomorrow

Please email your views to councillors today.  See link below. Scroll down for helpful pre formatted emails.


If the officer recommendation for felling goes through no trees in the city will be safe.

We highlighted previously that the magnificent one hundred year old copper beech on Hills Road is in the frame for Demolition.


This is very short notice but please give Friends of St Matthew’s Piece your support. You CAN make a difference!

Best wishes


Wendy Blythe,

Chair, FeCRA



Mill Road Bridges

St Matthew’s Piece Trees – STILL under threat!


Jul 28


Three magnificent trees on St Matthews’ Piece, along Sturton Street, are now at severe risk of being felled.

Alarmingly planning officers have recommended approval for the felling of these three trees.

This is wrong for so many reasons:

  • the Plane Trees are not the cause of “tree-related clay shrinkage subsidence”  at 193 Sturton Street
  • the consequences of felling these 3 trees are widespread and disastrous
  • the monetary value to Cambridge of the trees (based on the Council’s own CAVAT analysis) is more than double the financial cost of saving the trees by installing a root barrier
  • no tree anywhere in Cambridge will now be safe if 125-year old, with Tree Protection Orders, rare mature trees, in a Conservation Area can be felled when a new-build property’s insurer demands it
  • it is seeming almost impossible to stop the inexorable march toward this loss.


The planning committee meets on Wednesday 2nd August 2023 at 10 am.

The time for formal objections is long past, so please email your views now to Planning Committee Members and other Councillors.

Scroll down for a pre-formatted email to all of the relevant councillors.


An insurance claim at 193 Sturton Street (a new-build approx 25 year old property) blames clay shrinkage subsidence on three 125-year-old trees. A planning application has been submitted for the felling of these three trees.

Last summer, Cambridge City Council’s Planning Committee refused permission for these three precious trees to be severely cut back in both height and spread. The harm to the trees was judged not to be justified by the evidence. More information was required. (More here in this earlier post: St Matthew’s Piece Trees – Under Threat. Especially useful are the soil moisture deficit graphs.)

Instead: the applicant has submitted an application (23/0119/TTPO) to fell the three trees (or to install a ‘root barrier’ along part of Sturton Street). Their scanty documents fail to address even the reasons for refusal last summer. Fuller details can be found in our earlier post here: St Matthew’s Piece Trees (Again).

See pp. 10-11 of the applicant’s Addendum Report On A Subsidence Claim Arboricultural Recommendations under the ‘Documents’ tab for 23/0119/TTPO on the Planning Portal.

The three trees under threat


Everybody will have good reasons of their own, to object. Please explain the importance of these trees to you. Here are some suggestions to which the Friends of St Matthew’s Piece have contributed.

  • Compared to the 56 official parks in Cambridge’s other 13 wards, Petersfield ward has no other park than St Matthew’s Piece.
  • Petersfield has a poor tree canopy, with very few mature trees.
  • Every tree matters in Petersfield, which already suffers from the ‘Urban Heat Island Effect’.
  • These three Plane Trees all have Tree Preservation Orders, and are in Petersfield’s Conservation Area.
  • Changes to a Conservation Area require public benefit to outweigh public harm.
  • There will be no public benefit from felling any of these three trees – only massive public harm.
  • These these trees are vital to every person who lives, works or studies in our community.
  • Felling of these three, rare mature, 125-year old trees, subject to Tree Protection Orders will set a dangerous precedent; no tree anywhere in Cambridge will now be safe from a new-build property’s insurer’s demands.
  • Councillors may wish to reflect upon the potential damage to the city’s reputation were these three trees to be felled, when local, regional and national news media report upon the decision and the inevitable public protests.
  • The City Council’s tree experts stressed in 2006 the importance of preserving all the trees on St Matthew’s Piece, individually and as a group – trees that have only grown in importance since.
  • Data provided to show a ‘seasonal subsidence pattern’ instead contradict tree-related clay shrinkage.
  • The data showing a doubling of ‘foundation movement’ in December 2021 appears to be highly selective.
  • Leafless in winter, these deciduous trees take up almost no water so could not double the subsidence shown in December 2021.
  • The recommendations don’t consider the severe risk of ‘heave’ (soil swelling) on the basement level of the adjacent old Howard Mallett building – if these three trees are felled.


Use the link below to generate an email

  • To: all members of the Planning Committee
  • Cc: Petersfield and Abbey Councillors plus ‘reserve’ members of the Planning Committee

Email our councillors here.


Local residents have been fighting to protect and conserve local amenity and environmental assets via Friends of St Matthew’s Piece since 30thApril 2020 – and, before that, via Petersfield Area Community Trust, since 1998). We stand on the shoulders of the giants who, 100 years earlier, in 1898 had established St Matthew’s Piece. This included planting the magnificent London Plane trees that provide all of us with such wonderful benefits today. Read more on the history of St Matthew’s Piece, on the St Matthew’s Piece Timeline 1890–2020.

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