Bristol’s trees in crisis!

With Bristol City Council’s budget cuts, two decisions have been made regarding the management of Bristol’s treescape that make no economic sense, and threaten the reputation of the City as a Green and pleasant place to live and locate a business.

With Bristol City Council’s budget cuts, two decisions have been made regarding the management of Bristol’s treescape that make no economic sense, and threaten the reputation of the City as a Green and pleasant place to live and locate a business.

Decision 1: Slashing of street tree management budget

  • The budget for managing street trees has been cut by nearly 78% from £240,000 to £53,000.
  • As a result there will be no pollarding of street trees or removal of epicormic growth around the tree.
  • Emergency cover outside normal working hours is no longer being provided through the tree management contract, despite having no cost benefit.
  • Tree management will be limited to felling to address safety risks, despite greater initial costs and the long term consequent loss of tree sites – felling costs the same as 16 years of maintenance.  As a result, Bristol’s street tree population will rapidly fall into decline as they are steadily removed, never to be replaced.

Decision 2: No planting of street trees, either replacement or new, even when cost neutral

  • Bristol City Council has operated a number of innovative schemes allowing residents or community groups to sponsor replacement or new street trees. Despite fully funding the planting, and maintenance for two years, such planting will no longer be permitted.
  • At the moment, when a tree is replaced in an existing tree pit it costs £295. This covers regular watering until the tree is established and two years maintenance. If the trees dies whilst establishing itself, it is replaced at no extra cost.
  • If the Council can be persuaded to change its mind about not planting new trees, then this cost could to increase to the £765 that developers are required to pay – the overall costs of planting a tree and maintaining it during its lifetime. Planting a tree at a brand new site could add around £2,000-£2,500 if a special tree pit needs to be installed.
  • Currently there is huge support from the community for replacing lost trees. Around £200,000 of developers’ money is set aside for this purpose, Metrobus is committed to planting 200-300 trees as part of their planning condition, and Bristol University has donated funds to plant 60-100 public street trees.
  • It makes little sense, in times of budget constraints, to renounce external funding sources that fully cover planting and maintenance costs.

These decisions are a false economy for Bristol City Council

  • With no pollarding of street trees, increased tree growth will lead to more subsidence claims against the Council, and create more highway damage, pavement trip hazards, and infrastructure damage.
  • New tree growth from previous pollarding points will become unstable, increasing the probability of personal injury and property damage claims against the Council.
  • Just a couple of additional subsidence or injury claims could negate the Council’s entire “cost saving”.
  • This short-term decision makes no sense – if a tree can be maintained for some 16 years – the one-off cost of felling it, then surely it makes better economic sense to spread this inevitable cost and maintain the tree rather than fell it as a short-term ‘solution’ – a ‘solution’ which loads all the costs up front and will lead to greatly increased and unavoidable expenditure in not very many years time?

These decisions will threaten Bristol’s reputation as a Green City

These decisions were taken with no consultation with stakeholders

There has been no consultation regarding these decisions with other Departments within Bristol City Council, who will have to deal with the foreseeable consequences, with insurers, who will face additional damage claims, Avon and Somerset Police, who will have to address public order consequences of mass felling, or Bristol Tree Forum, with its wide-reaching understanding of tree issues.

What you can do

  • Contact your Councillor and email the Mayor and demand that these decisions be overturned.
  • Contact us here at Bristol Tree Forum to register your support and offer to help defend Bristol’s public tree spaces.
  • Spread the word and forward this blog to others interested in saving trees.

Author: BristolTreeForum

We are a group of volunteers dedicated to increasing the tree canopy cover of Bristol.

10 thoughts on “Bristol’s trees in crisis!”

  1. I agree, a Utopian Universal Tree Management regime staffed by voluntary local wardens / residents would be an ideal solution, which would go some way towards a partial remedy for the tragic neglect of Bristols trees, in turn preventing the blight on property I mentioned previously, to be effectively reduced. I use the term ‘Utopian’ advisedly, as in the real world any attempt to pollard, fell,reduce in height or thin the density of foliage of kerbside trees in particular, requires the exponent to have the written consent from BCC for any tree above 1.5 metres in height, supported by an agent with recognised, formal qualifications and public liabilty insurance, the scope of which would be in the realms of 6 figures. I have been down this road via local MP’s and written dialogue with the Department of the Environment, all to no avail at any level as, and I quote ‘ there is no funding’ despite the annual rise in council tax to fimanace such services.

    1. Conservatives have cut everything and doubled the national debt, they seem to be geniuses at making money disappear. Write to the editor of the Evening Standard to ask where its all gone.

  2. All blame for lack of staff and money must be placed on Conservative ‘Austerity’ – a mean-minded idea which has totally failed. Its now just a sadistic experiment to see how much can be ruined before society falls apart. We desperately need another way of creating a happier country, at the moment, we’re lagging behind the rest of western Europe in all financial and quality standards. Rip-off Britain!

  3. Start a community pressure group, and if that fails, may be the people of Bristol will have to take matters into their own hands… It’s high time we all started co-creating a down up system and not keep falling folly to the top down tyranny. If this happened in my area, I’d offer some free management time for the community, and I already do in my role as a voluntary tree warden. If everyone did a little bit, it would all equate to a lot…

    Trees across the country are increasingly under threat of bad management, and ultimately premature removal and it’s up to people to protect them so life in general doesn’t start to slowly demise…

    Tommy Hutchinson

  4. Bristol City Council has a ‘Tree management policy’ which is many pages in content and is entirely reactive, in terms of what they will NOT do to ensure the safe future of the trees in their charge. Should you be unfortunate enough to have a large tree close to your property there will be no support in cases of subsidence (unless monitored at your own expense), lack of natural daylight, loss of television picture reception and quality, access via a dropped kerb, obstruction to pedestrians, disabled persons and children in particular, to the point of being dangerous, where walking in the road becomes a necessity to avoid being soaked by wet foilage at ground level. Trees of this size variety (London Plane trees for example) are more suited to Parks and Estates and have no place in residential areas where they are a blight on property.In Winter the leaves block gutters and drains, the roots fracture pipes and drainage channels, while in Summer the glutinous sap degrades paintwork on vehicles and effectively prevents electrically operated vehicle windows from opening unless the vehicle is washed daily. This whole scenario constitutes neglect of the worst kind and as such, the council and those responsible should be have legal action taken against them for dereliction of duties and responsibilities towards those who pay council tax for the arboreal services and management they are patently refusing to provide.

    1. The trees were, in all probability, in location before the houses in question were built. So, if you don’t want large tress around you, don’t buy the propoerty!!!

  5. When does this take affect from 2020? as I thought the council signed a 5 year contract with Gristwood and Toms. Maybe when we next choose our Mayor street trees be part of the manifesto to help us decide who to elect.

  6. Just so sad there some really poor Financial and environmental decisions being made here – we all know that trees make oxygen and absorb carbon gases, oh you did well cut them all down and we can’t breath!! 😔

  7. Sometimes recently pollarded trees take a while before they show signs of regrowth, so it may take a while still, but if they were pollarded before last season, then they may well have died. Can you tell us where the trees are? Maybe use our tree finder site – – to identify their asset numbers?

    Yes the loss of the trees at Temple Circus for the Metro bus is very sad. The developers are obliged to replace them when the works are finished. We must make sure they do not ‘forget’!

  8. I have noticed several trees around Bristol that have been over pollarded and are showing no signs of new growth – in effect they have been killed by poor management. I note also that a whole circle of trees have been felled at Temple Circus roundabout in advance of a proposed new road plan which has not even been given full planning consent. What is going on here? Fell first answer questions later?

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