St Matthew’s Piece Trees – The Crucial Meeting

Photo of banner on the at-risk trees
  • The crucial meeting on the fate of the three threatened trees is tomorrow Wednesday 1st November. 
  • It will be at 10 am in the main Council Chamber at the Guildhall
  • It is open to the public, via the Peas Hill entrance only, from 9.30 am
  • First real item of business on the agenda – please come, and please be prompt
  • It would be very helpful for as many supporters as possible to be there!
  • If we can’t save these 3 highly protected trees, NO tree in Cambridge is safe.
Photo of the three threatened trees on St Matthew’s Piece
The three threatened trees on St Matthew’s Piece

??? Extracts of a letter by an Friends of St Matthew’s Piece supporter to the Planning Committee:

…With family in Sheffield and in Plymouth, I’m very aware of how much is at stake tomorrow for all concerned in this application/decision, including yourselves….

I’ve just read the latest report from Joanna Davies to the Committee. I write with other decision-making processes in my mind regarding Council tree officers, favouring the removal of trees at this period of climate chaos. 

Tree officers are being asked to take decisions that require professional knowledge and skill, a multi-disciplinary approach, and ethical thinking that the current regulatory framework does not allow for. In this case, Ms Davies is not competent to answer questions about building methods and therefore about buildings allegedly affected by tree roots, nor is she mandated (or qualified) to question the potential involvement and motives of the owners of the land on which the three trees sit. Yet these are crucial questions that may affect … these terrible acts of destruction, and part of the story of our area. They are not relevant to a tree officer but they are, in reality, central to questions of justice and the preservation of Petersfield.

[Did] the additional advice Ms Davies sought about this application lead to a thorough on-site inspection of the allegedly threatened building? … Was this in fact merely a paper exercise, just checking the bureaucratic competence of the insurers claim?

In Sheffield … the destruction of mature trees has been experienced by the public as acts of slaughter, even murder. There is no comfort in the argument that no one responsible actually broke the law. Traditionally ‘safe’ left wing constituencies have voted against Labour councillors as a direct consequence of decision making that resulted in mature trees being felled against public wishes. 

Trees are experienced everywhere as living beings who share our lives, and the regulations to which Ms Davies is bound, and the processes by which such decisions are made, are clearly inadequate. I hope councillors can find that … there remain too many questions in this case that … she is neither authorised nor professionally competent to answer.

These heavy matters now rest with yourselves. I hope the wisest and most morally fair decision is taken tomorrow…


The area around St Matthew’s Piece lies in the bottom 20% nationally of the ‘Environment Domain’ in the government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation.

This – St Matthew’s Piece Timeline 1890–2020 (Click to open in Google Docs.) – is the history of how the land on which these trees stand was bought in the 1890s, with public money – and given to the local community forever … but then lost by our local councils. The current owners are multinational banking interests and property investors.

Local residents have been fighting to protect and conserve local amenity and environmental assets via Friends of St Matthew’s Piece since 30th April 2020 – and, before that, via Petersfield Area Community Trust, since 1998). Friends of St Matthew’s Piece 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.

Earlier Mill Road Bridges blogposts on the three trees are referenced below:

From Friends of St Matthew’s Piece

If you would like to join Friends of St Matthew’s Piece or assist in any of the issues raised in this blogpost, kindly hosted by Mill Road Bridges, please email Friends of St Matthew’s Piece.

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