Cambridgeshire 'forest' dies after National Highways blunder


At least 650,000 tree saplings planted adjacent to a Cambridgeshire highway in 2020 have died due to poor aftercare, it has been revealed.

The A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon was the subject of a £1.5-billion upgrade, which opened in 2020.

In order for the works to be given the go-ahead, National Highways had to plan for a way in which to offset the loss of 400,000 trees and shrubs that were removed in the first place, as well as to mitigate against the carbon emissions from the road. This involved the planting of some 850,000 saplings alongside the carriageway.

However, three-quarters of the planted saplings have subsequently died, with cited reasons including poor species choice, poor soil, dry conditions and poor aftercare. Extraordinarily, these figures were calculated before the record-breaking hot and dry summer of 2022, which is likely to have killed even more of the saplings.

The A14 is now flanked by hundreds of thousands of plastic protection tubes filled with dead twigs and grass.

Most of the 850,000 trees planted by the A14 in Cambridgeshire in 2020 have died, in part due to a lack of aftercare (National Highways).

National Highways, which admits an "unusually high failure rate" among the planted trees, has announced a replanting scheme to fix its mistake. It intends to replant 162,000 trees, which will reportedly cost the taxpayer a further £2.9 million.

Councillor Edna Murphy, who has been campaigning for two years for National Highways to take responsibility for the die-off, has complained at the difficulty in getting information out of the organisation. She said: "I tried the Freedom of Information Act, I tried asking nicely, nothing worked."

Conservationists have accused the entire project of greenwashing and being a "disaster" for the environment.