Nursery children to be banned from playing under tree… in case they damage its roots
Council officials want to ban nursery children from playing under a tree – claiming they will damage the roots by trampling the ground.
Officers are applying for a permanent preservation order on the 30-year-old cedar to safeguard it from damage.
Outraged parents have called for common sense and say the children – aged two to four – exert too little pressure to cause any harm.
The move follows a Cambridge City Council report into the health of the tree at the Under Fives Roundabout Pre-School in Cambridge.
It argues the tree – which covers half the playground – will suffer if the ground is “poached and compacted” by “constant activity” which could stop water reaching the roots.
The report recommends: “Ideally, the children would not be able to play beneath the tree.”
Poached ground is commonly caused by cattle cutting up grassland with their hooves near gates and feeding points, exposing the soil leaving it open to erosion.
The council served a tree preservation order on the school on June 9, 2008.
A planning committee meeting will be held on Wednesday to hear objections and decide whether to confirm or reject the order.
The pre-school moved to its current site on the grounds of a primary school in September. Previously the tree was outside school grounds by a public footpath.
Eileen Hori, chairman of the nursery’s management committee and parent, said the tree is now better protected than ever.
She added: “It’s utterly ridiculous to restrict the kids like this. They will have a tiny amount of space to play in.”
David Hargreaves, vice-chairman of the pre-school’s management committee, said it is happy to protect the tree but does not want “harsh restrictions” on action.
The council’s principal arboricultural officer Diana Oviatt-Ham said the children could compact the earth and starve the roots of water.
She added: “They were advised right from the start when they were interested in the site that there were going to be constraints on the use of the tree.”
David Howarth, MP for Cambridge, who lives near the pre-school, said: “Children have played underneath trees for centuries without serious harm coming to either.”