So I met with the chap from the County Council.
There's still not much can be done to fix things, but. I've made some suggestions, in addition to procedural ones I'e already made. If you're not interested in the specific ecology of an obscure hedge on the outskirts of Cambridge, read no further...
Still with me?
Suggestions for rescuing as much as possible from this:
(1) When the rather horrid leylandii hedge along part of Arbury Road was cut and replaced (badly) in 2014 we lost a site where bats roosted in Summer. Pippistrelle I think. The consultation that ought to have been required (asking people who live more than 20 yards from the site) didn't happen. As the entirely botched re-planting is being replaced, can we look at doing something for bats? Might that include putting roosting boxes for them up on the flats nearby or selecting trees that give the kind of habitat required? I approached Councillor Price about this at the time, but nothing came of it.
(2) A hedge isn't just a row of shrubs or trees. A hedgerow is an ecosystem, a continuity of growth that outlasts any of the individual plants, able to persist for hundreds of years. To remove a hedge completely and then replant shrubs and trees isn't replanting the hedge - its simply putting the scaffolding back up. As it happens much of the hedgerow had been badly managed for years anyway, so I was keen to view this as an opportunity to allow some of the hedge biodiversity to recover. But thats best done when you plant the hedge, so we're running to catch up with that. Does the hedge management plan allow that if we specify some under-planting, some native plants that can thrive there providing habitats, that they won't be regularly sprayed with weed killer? Will you support an undertaking to source and replace some native flora under and around the shrubs?
(3) Its heartening to hear that suggestions for trees to incorporate haven't been entirely ignored - especially Cambridge gage and Chivers delight apple. But the point of suggesting that they be replanted in the hedgerow rather than as specimen trees is that hedgerow planting can allow a tree to thrive for decades - the greengages that were removed from the hedge were most likely there since before the housing estate here was first built. I rather fear we've played a game of Chinese whispers and what was suggested for the hedge is now being specified for other planting instead. I'm glad to hear that we're getting new trees planted as well, but planting more gage or plum trees would seem a poor fit with the City Council tree strategy, which is to broaden out the range of species planted. Can we please get these trees into the hedge and look at the goal of broadening the range of species planted elsewhere?
(4) There is still a lot to be said for local biodiversity. If we can take cuttings of local cultivars of dog rose, bramble etc. will you facilitate planting of those into any gaps that may emerge or be made in the hedge?
If we can make positive steps on these points I'll be happy that the scheme hasn't been entirely insensitive to local ecological concerns. Ball is in City Deals court now...