A Manifesto for protecting Bristol’s existing Urban Forest

We invite all candidates standing in this May’s Mayoral and Councillor elections to endorse our tree manifesto which we set out here.

Bristol has declared a climate and ecological emergency. An emergency means making radical changes now – in every council department, by every developer, and by all those who own or care for trees.

All these proposals fit under Bristol’s existing 2011 Bristol Development Framework Core Strategy – BCS9 Green Infrastructure Policy which should now be implemented.  We must stop the needless destruction of so many trees in our city and instead learn to work around and with them.

Everyone from all sides of the political spectrum is talking about planting trees.  We fully endorse this, but it will take time for these new trees to mature. In the meantime, retaining existing trees will have the biggest immediate effect.

We propose that

  • There needs to be genuine community engagement in Bristol’s tree management decisions.  The council needs to listen to communities that want to save trees, not just to those who want to remove them.
  • Urban trees (planted or self-sown) have a tough life. Many bear the wounds and scars of previous damage or interventions.  These trees, though they may not be perfect, should be valued for the ecosystem services they provide and retained with appropriate and careful management wherever possible.
  • Alternatives to felling must be given priority, whether for street trees, or for those threatened by planning applications, or for other trees in the public or the private space.  
  • We need to strengthen planning policies to help retain trees on development sites by building around them, especially when the trees are on the edge of the site. 
  • Veteran and ancient trees require specialist management to ensure their retention whenever possible.
  • When surveys identify trees that present a risk, there should be consultation about the range of options available to mitigate the risk. This should always balance risk with the benefits the tree provides. Felling is only ever a last resort.
  • If trees must be felled, then more trees need to be planted to replace them. This should be based on well-established metrics used to calculate how to increase (not just replace) the natural capital of the lost tree.

Click here to print a copy of the manifesto. Candidates are welcome to download and use to support our aims.

Our Blogs contain many examples of the sorts of issues that have caused us to write this manifesto.

Author: BristolTreeForum

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

6 thoughts on “A Manifesto for protecting Bristol’s existing Urban Forest”

  1. Dear Tree Forum,
    Are you aware that despite their words about increasing tree canopy, Bristol City Council are pollarding – removing all the canopy of many large, mature street trees on Thingwall Park, Fishponds, and probably elsewhere, in JULY?! This is just when we need their cooling effect, absorbtion of CO2, haven for wildlife, boost to mental health etc. The contractors agree with me that they should be pruned later in the year but “Bristol City Council want it done”. They admit they are having to leave some trees because of nests. I have complained to the mayor, and my councillors but wondered if you could take this up with them too.
    It seems there is no joined up thinking.
    Sincerely, Kate Cashmore

  2. Thank you, Bristol Tree Forum. This needs to be adopted by BCC in order to implement the 2011 BCS9 Green Infrastructure Policy without more delay, before further damage is done by development already in the offing, as at Hengrove Park. Their Tree Officers should be involved at the planning stages and alongside the developers, to ensure that preserving mature trees is the default. Plans should be accommodating trees, even – as you’ve emphasised – imperfect ones – that can be so valuable in ecological terms.
    Most people love trees. We attribute qualities to them that we aspire to – steadfastness, reliability, renewal – and we link trees we know into our life stories. More local tree adoption or guardianship could foster and weave responsibility and care for our familiar trees into our community mindset, alongside the existing schemes and individual planting initiatives. It would be especially good to see schools and youth groups participating all over the city as part of BCC’s engagement with tackling the ecological emergency it has, of its own volition, declared.

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