Hundreds of trees at historic orchard to be felled as council votes for ‘green’ bus route
Trees will have to be cleared from Coton Orchard in Cambridgeshire to make way for the route after councillors voted by 33 to 26 to approve the new route.
The new busway will use electric or hybrid buses to link Cambridge and Cambourne, a new town eight miles outside the city.
Thousands of people have signed a petition against the plans and calling for the trees to be saved from the “utterly destructive” proposal.
Anna Gazeley, whose family own the orchard, which was planted in 1922 to produce apples for wholesale trade in Covent Garden, told councillors: “Traditional orchards are hotspots of biodiversity in the countryside, supporting a wide range of wildlife as well as an array of nationally rare and nationally scarce species.
“‘They are designated habitats of primary importance and rightly accorded protections.”
Ms Gazeley, whose father bought the orchard in 1996 to save it from development. said the dissection of the orchard and the loss of the trees would make it economically unviable and too difficult to manage – and as a result the whole orchard would be lost.
It is the eighth largest traditional orchard left in the UK, she added.
The new bus route will save an estimate 1.5-3.5 minutes compared to a typical bus lane, the council has heard previously.
James Littlewood, chief executive of heritage charity Cambridge Past, Present and Future, said he was “really disappointed”.
“From our perspective, the fight doesn’t end there,” he said.
“It does go on to public inquiry. We’ve launched a fighting fund.
“Anyone who wants to support our campaign to protect Coton Orchard and preserve the trees can help support that.
“We’ve raised £50,000 already and that will be used to pay for transport experts and legal experts to help us make our case at public inquiry.”
Lib Dem council leader Lucy Nethsingha said: “Quality public transport links are a key part of decarbonisation.. Moving to a net zero economy cannot be done without changing the way we travel.”
The Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership, which is putting forward the bus route, said that the effects would be mitigated off-site with other biodiversity projects. This is disputed by opponents to the destruction of a part of the orchard.
Steve Oram, the orchard biodiversity manager at the People’s Trust for Endangered Species said the loss of such an orchard ‘cannot be compensated for’.
He said the plans are “utterly destructive” and “could never achieve biodiversity net gain due to the vast amount of damage that it will do to an ancient orchard full of veteran trees”.
A local campaign group wrote online: “A vote for economic growth over environment.”
Another said: “The trees have been condemned. Where is the accountability?”
The council will submit a report to the government for approval and the Secretary of State will hold a public inquiry before any final decision is taken.