Update 29th October 2023

Dear All,

St Matthew’s Piece Trees – residents say urgent action needed and your support please

On Wednesday 1st November 2023, the fate of the three threatened trees on St Matthew’s Piece is the first item of real business at Cambridge City Council’s Planning Committee 10am, Guildhall. An insurance company is demanding that these 125-year-old trees be felled. They are acting for the absentee landlord of 193 Sturton Street, a neglected HMO (house in multiple occupancy) built 100 years after these trees were planted. The latest report to the planning committee (presenting officer Joanna Davies) appears to weight the arguments in favour of removal of these three 100+year old trees. For a full report see link below.


Friends of St Matthew’s Piece say the Planning Committee is open to the public. Please attend the meeting and show your support and encourage others to attend. 

There is another application on the agenda to fell lime trees with tpos on Howes Place


23/1194/TTPO | T3 Works to Protected Trees T3-Wellingtonia, Fell. 10 Adams Road, Cambridge CB3 9AD The property has suffered differential movement and damage that is considered to have been caused by trees growing adjacent to the property influencing soils beneath its foundations.

A resident has contacted us about another urgent tree issue asking for support, the threat to fell the magnificent Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum in the garden at 10 Adams Rd, a fine and beautiful landmark for the West Cambridge Conservancy Area and for people using the Coton Footpath. He writes ‘’This tree with its vast capacity for storing carbon will become one of the proud emblems in Cambridge’s fight to be carbon neutral. It has to survive.’


Insurers Aviva via their agents [Property Risk Inspection] want to obtain permission from the Cambridge City Council to fell this magnificent protected tree,

[Sequoiadendron giganteum] and are trying to blame the tree for causing subsidence in 2018-2019 during a prolonged  drought spell. Note this



Losing Paradise and Keeping Cambridge Special – Queens’s College Appeal and the Public Inquiry – concerns  

Biodiversity expert Sir Partha Dasgupta, patron of Paradise Nature Resserve who was quoted in the Cambridge Independent about the Queens’ College development impacting the Nature Reserve referred to the way ‘populations of species and millions of forests have been ‘decimated bit by bit’ because the economic case was argued to be ‘overwhelming’. Click on link below:



Battle for the Bats


In his closing statement at the Public Inquiry the barrister from Landmark Chambers representing Queens said it was the tree officer’s choice to fell the trees that are the Nature Reserve’s bat conduit corridor.


Extract from Landmark Chambers closing statement circulated at the Public Inquiry. Link below.


Extracts from the minutes of pre application meetings with Queens




  • Residents say that Queens’ planning application was lacking in key information and the Committee was right to refuse it. But worryingly they say it was clear from the start that the Council had no wish to win this Appeal.
  • Not only were the reasons for refusal poorly drafted but the process throughout was characterised by incompetence and a complete lack of transparency – especially as the officer who had attended the pre app meetings with Queens’ and had recommended approval of Queens’ development was put in charge of handling the Appeal.
  • Residents highlight that there is a strict timetable for a PI, but notification went out 3 weeks late only when instructed by PINS, and with incomplete information. No arrangements were made to live stream, record it or take minutes so there is no independent record of the proceedings, apart from the notes made by the Inspector.
  • The Council refused to work with the Rule 6 parties to make best use of the evidence. Each of the consultants was also working alone which meant there were contradictions in the evidence they presented. Added to their lack of experience or preparation this was disastrous and easily exploited by the Queens’ barrister.
  • The difficulty for the Council’s barrister fighting the case came from the fact that Queens’ main evidence came from the reports of the Council officers, especially ecology, conservation and planning. With the officer who had handled the planning application in charge the Council’s barrister ( whom residents attending the inquiry say was good) was not able to challenge the many inconsistencies in them or the attempts to mislead about the bats and lighting or show the ways in which the process lacked transparency.
  • The contested ditch and trees, for eg, are Protected Open Space. Residents say this should have been a material planning consideration. But this fact does not appear in discussion of the landscaping or decision to remove  them, or indeed in any over 400 documents in the file. It was raised only by the barrister for FPNR. 
  • Mystery also surrounds the way in which the many concerns being raised in the 3rd Pre App with Queens in March 2022 suddenly all gave way to every single officer finding the plans acceptable when they were submitted in April. This followed a 4th Pre App which was not minuted.
  • Residents say the last day of the Inquiry was the most depressing. The Queens’ team were out in force – Bursar + various assistants, top KC + various assistants, all their Consultants, partners from Mills and Reeve and Turley’s. They all looked very smart, professional and committed. The 3 state primary school governors were there, as they had been every day – they had all taken 2 weeks off work. Friends of Paradise Nature Reserve’s barrister, were there, and about fifteen residents turned up, several also having taken the day off work. But on the Council’s side were only the barrister and the planning officer who had recommended approval. Yet this was a very important case for the Council and for Cambridge residents as the outcome will impact decisions about city green spaces.


Clarion Housing Association’s trees on Glebe Road, Queen Edith’s  

In April this year contractors employed by the Clarion Group took saws to the old ivy on the mature trees on Glebe Road at peak nesting time when the ivy and trees were full of nests. To Clarion tenants distress the contractors came back last week to severely lop mature trees in their front garden in what seems like a process that’s aimed at managed decline. The contractors had given no advance notice that these mature tall trees were to be lopped or their location. They only stopped because tenants and residents formed a picket to protect the trees.


Residents say Cambridge’s beautiful mature tree-lined roads like the trees of Glebe Road are substantial wildlife corridors that are full of biodiversity and birds and bats. Click on link below.


Worringly it appears mature trees like this have no protection. The contractors told Clarion tenants who had lived there over 25 years that they had applied to the council for permission who told them that as the trees were not in a conservation area and did not have tpos they could do what they liked. This seems at odds with what is being said to residents about planting trees and  the value of tall trees and canopy cover.

New tree analysis report sent to all city councillors by the council’s senior arboriculturalist 


Matthew Magrath ‘This analysis was undertaken by Cambridge University Technical Services and focuses on two key metrics – canopy cover and mean canopy height… Tall trees usually have large crowns and therefore contribute disproportionately to canopy cover and mean canopy height. It is therefore particularly important to preserve these large trees wherever possible.

‘’The only wards to experience a decrease in canopy cover were Castle and Newnham’

22/05556/FUL 198 Queen Edith’s Way clearance of a garden removing all evidence of trees, shrubs, eco-systems and wildlife

Click on links below




We are hearing disturbing reports from residents about clearances like the one in Dorset where

“They completely destroyed an eco-system in one day & all the wildlife…didn’t even leave the trees on site to let small animals or bats or insects to crawl out, put it straight into the chipper”


This Dorset story was picked up by national media




Residents say it’s worrying that planning applications are being approved despite knowledge that all evidence for required BNG to be achieved has been removed. They ask if Dudley Developments in Cambridge cleared 198 Queen Edith’s Way of all the mature trees & shrubs to remove evidence of existing biodiversity, the baseline evidence required for impact assessment for BNG?

After residents contacted FeCRA about the clearance at 198 Queen Edith’s Way and information about this was shared on social media residents tell us documents started appearing on the planning application web portal’s ‘Documents section that should have been published there some time ago ‘which gives the impression that all the documents have been posted promptly and in chronological order and have been publicly-accessible on the web portal since the claimed publication date.’

‘For example, that very evening and the following day, two documents dated 27th January 2023 (from over 9.5 months ago!) appeared with the date 27th January 2023 (and actually each one now appears twice on the web portal)’ Also there are strange email chains from officers that indicate conversations but omit key responses and with weird timings.

Please tell us if you know of other cases like this.

There is an interesting blog post

Cambridge’s Latest Export – Biodiversity link below 


I will be in touch again shortly as there is other information to share.

Best wishes,


Wendy Blythe

Chair, FeCRA




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