Bristol Tree Forum blog

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Bristol’s Tree Canopy

“Bristol ranks as the 5th greyest city in England”

This statement was made in a recent article in Wales Online,  the Express, and elsewhere. The article, with a by-line of Neil Shaw, seems to be based on a press release by OVO Energy who are promoting a petition to create a legally binding target to plant 30,000 ha of new woodland each year to 2050.  The article reported tree cover in a number of countries and cities around the UK based on data supplied by the aerial survey and GIS company BlueSky.  Amongst the results is :

Bristol, known for its green credentials, ranks as the 5th greyest city in England at 8% – and only 1 tree per person. 

This is very different from the estimate produced by our own tools which estimate tree canopy cover (TCC) in 2020 at around 17.5%. Thankfully, as the following analysis discovers, Bristol can hold its head as a green city.

i-Tree Canopy 

Our estimate is based on a desktop survey using a methodology called i-Tree Canopy.   The methodology is pretty simple:  take any boundary, randomly place a number of points within the boundary, examine each point in Google Maps and decide if the point lies within a tree canopy or not; the ratio of canopy points to the total number of points is the TCC, Uncertainty arises from the nature of the random sampling and interpretation of the image, particularly to distinguish a tree from hedges and low ground cover.

Our version of this approach is integrated with the Trees of Bristol website so that it can used to estimate TCC for any area in our database with a known boundary.  In particular, we have used this tool to estimate TCC for all wards in Bristol which are mapped here.  These values have joined the many hundreds of estimates across the UK  to form the GB Ward Canopy Map  organised by Forest Research.  With this pedigree, we have been advocating this approach for use in Bristol as the means to assess progress towards Bristol’s ambitious goal of doubling tree canopy by 2046.  Aggregating the samples across all 32 wards, we estimated that Bristol had 17.9% TCC in 2018 and by 2020 it was  17.5%. (This change from 2018 to 2020 is not statistically significant)

National Tree Map

The estimates in the press article were based on the National Tree Map, a commercial product from Bluesky.  This uses a combination of their own imagery and LIDAR data.  Complex analysis of the LIDAR data, using the difference in return time from ground and canopy reflections enables an estimate of the canopy above 3m high.   

Discussion with Bluesky revealed a probable cause of the discrepancy for Bristol.  Any comparison between estimates needs to be based on the same boundary definition using imagery from the same time period. For the i-Tree Canopy approach we have used the City of Bristol boundary which has an area of about 11,000 hectares (110 sq km) . In contrast, it turns out that  the data provided to OVO energy by Bluesky was based on the Unitary Authority Boundary.  For Bristol this is a rather odd area, taking in a swath of the Bristol Channel down as far as the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm.  This is because historically, the boundary of the Port of Bristol is included.

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The area within this boundary is 23,500 hectares.  Since Bristol can hardly be criticised for failing to plant trees in the Bristol Channel, this dramatically distorts the estimate.  Adjusting for this difference in definition, I arrived at a figure of 17%, within the statistical bounds of the i-Tree canopy estimate.

The National Tree map was also used back in 2014 as reported in the Daily Mail.  The accompanying map similarly shows a very low value for tree canopy in Bristol so I suspect that the same boundary was used there too.

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Comparison

After discussion with BlueSky, I supplied four boundaries for assessment using the NTM methodology for comparison with the i-Tree approach: the Bristol City Boundary and three wards chosen to have low, medium and high levels of canopy. These are the results:

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NTM uses a strict height of 3 metres when assessing canopy whereas using i-Tree canopy, the distinction between tree canopy and lower greenery including hedges is assessed visually, so a slight upward bias might be expected and has also been observed in Forest Research data.  On the whole though, this comparison shows very strong agreement between the two methodologies. 

The bad news

The gross error in Bristol’s tree canopy percentage actually made it easy to see that something was amiss.  One must assume that similar issues will have occurred in the case of other cities whose boundaries are subject to debate.  Indeed, the Unitary authority boundary for Portsmouth, which with only 4% cover is reported to the be worst in the UK, includes the expanse of Portsmouth and Langstone Harbours.  According to the Portsmouth Council website, land is about two-thirds of the area of the authority so a better figure would be 6%, still low.

Problems with boundary definitions plague this data.  Bristol City is only the core of the conurbation with large parts of what we think of as Bristol in South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset.  Comparison with the figure given for Leeds, also 17%, is not possible since the City of Leeds boundary includes all the surrounding towns and countryside.

It is clear that unitary authority boundaries are not directly suitable for urban canopy evaluation.

The need for full data publication

In addition to the 2014 report and the recent publicity by Ovo Energy, another survey by Bluesky was publicised late last year on the BBC but no figure for Bristol is mentioned.  These press articles give only selective figures rather than the full data across England. I searched for published reports containing the full data, which I expected to include the base area, canopy area as well as the computed percentage and rankings.  I found nothing.  This makes it impossible to correct other derived data, such as the ranking of Bristol as the “5th greyest in England”.

I would hope that in future, companies like Bluesky and Ovo Energy will see that making full data openly available in support of extracts and assertions would reduce mis-interpretations, provide a public good and better promote their company.

Journalists too have a responsibility here, not only to critically assess press releases but to request and link to the supporting data. Neither happened in this case.

The good news

This exercise has turned out to be good news for both the National Tree Map methodology and our own work with i-Tree Canopy. The results are very similar and differences are rather consistent and explainable.  Our implementation of i-Tree Canopy is free to use by citizen-scientists with known error bounds and can be quickly applied to any chosen boundary.  With the inclusion of historical imagery from Google Earth, it can also be used to compare canopy over time.  

This exercise has also confirms the doubts we held about the figure from an i-Tree Eco survey carried out in 2018.  This survey used volunteers to ground-survey 200 random plots in Bristol. The survey arrived at a figure of 12% with wide error bounds but much less than the i-Tree Canopy value.  All methods have some uncertainty but we can be pretty confident that Bristol’s Tree Canopy in 2020  is in the region of 17 – 18%.

The National Tree Map is primarily intended as a means to locate and measure the canopy of individual trees in an area.  The canopy estimate is only a by-product and agrees well with the i-Tree canopy approach.  For its primary purpose, NTM appears to provide a very much more economic solution than on the ground surveying.  Indeed it would be very interesting to compare this map for Bristol with the mapping of individual trees in Trees of Bristol.

Forest Research is at the forefront of research into the UK Urban Tree canopy and their 2017 paper on the Canopy Cover of Englands Towns and Cities remains the most authoritative UK -wide survey. We look forward to an update to this excellent work.

Chris Wallace

First published in The Wallace Line on 11 May 2021

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Consultation on proposed changes to NPPF and the National Model Design Code

Individual planning decisions, development designs and local and national plans for development all impact local communities. We urge the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government to consider our views on the design codes and to continue to engage communities and groups such as ours in local planning decisions.

Here are our detailed responses to the consultation.


The changes proposed in Chapter 2 – Achieving sustainable development

Paragraph 7 – We agree with the introduction of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. These have been adopted by Bristol as part of its One City Plan so their adoption in the NPPF will be essential for ensuring that the city’s core planning policies are aligned with its wider goals.

Paragraph 8 states:

‘Achieving sustainable development means that the planning system has three overarching objectives, which are interdependent and need to be pursued in mutually supportive ways (so that opportunities can be taken to secure net gains across each of the different objectives).’

We would also like it to be made as clear as possible that these three overarching objectives are indeed ‘interdependent and need to be pursued in mutually supportive’ ways so that no one objective takes precedence over the others, as has been our experience with a number of recent planning decisions made in Bristol.

We propose that the paragraph amended to read: ‘Achieving sustainable development means that the planning system has three overarching objectives, which are interdependent and need to be pursued in mutually supportive ways so that no one objective is treated as having precedence over the others (so that opportunities can be taken to secure net gains across each of the different objectives)’

Paragraph 11 a) – We also endorse the proposed change that ‘all plans should promote a sustainable pattern of development that seeks to: meet the development needs of their area; align growth and infrastructure; improve the environment; mitigate climate change (including by making effective use of land in urban areas) and adapt to its effects’. Trees are an important component of this, particularly where green space is limited.


The changes proposed in Chapter 3 – Plan making

Paragraph 22 – We agree that ‘where larger-scale development such as new settlements form part of the strategy for the area, policies should be set within a vision that looks further ahead (at least 30 years), to take into account the likely timescale for delivery’. Too often, trees that were planted where a site was last developed (often only a few years before) are sacrificed to the short-term goals of the new proposal. Setting longer-term goals can help prevent this.


Proposed changes to Chapter 4 – Decision making

Paragraph 53 – Of the two options offered[1], we prefer the second – ‘where they relate to change of use to residential, be limited to situations where this is necessary in order to protect an interest of national significance’. In our view, the phrase ‘wholly unacceptable adverse impacts is open to too wide an interpretation which may not be rooted in wider national goals.

We agree that that Article 4 directions should be restricted to the smallest geographical area possible. 


The changes proposed in Chapter 8 – Promoting healthy and safe communities

We welcome many of the additions and changes proposed, including the recognition that a well-connected network of high-quality, open, green and wooded spaces is important for both our mental and physical health.

Paragraph 97 – We believe that access to a network of high-quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and physical activity ‘should always deliver wider benefits for nature and efforts to address climate change.


The changes proposed in Chapter 12 – Achieving well-designed places

Paragraph 128 – We agree that all guides and codes should be based on effective community engagement and reflect local aspirations for the development of their area.

Meaningful community engagement at all stages of the planning process is essential if the changes proposed are to succeed. Too often, communities are not asked to engage with planning proposals until they are published and the formal approval process has started. By this time most of the key decisions have been agreed between the developer and the planner and it is too late for any meaningful consultation with the wider community.

Paragraph 130 – We welcome the introduction of this new paragraph:

‘Trees make an important contribution to the character and quality of urban environments, and can also help mitigate and adapt to climate change. Planning policies and decisions should ensure that new streets are tree-lined, that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere in developments (such as community orchards), that appropriate measures are in place to secure the long-term maintenance of newly-planted trees, and that existing trees are retained wherever possible. Applicants and local planning authorities should work with local highways officers and tree officers to ensure that the right trees are planted in the right places, and solutions are found that are compatible with highways standards and the needs of different users.’

We must learn to value our urban trees and woods growing in Bristol (and in other cities), so we were pleased to see this addition with the ambition to ensure that all new streets are treelined, but city-wide planning involving existing streets and road networks must also make space for new tree planting in the design process as well as ensuring that existing trees are retained.

Generally, planning requirements must be tightened to ensure that existing trees are retained. Only in exceptional cases where there are clear, justifiable and compelling reasons to do so should trees be removed. In all cases the cascading principles of the Mitigation Hierarchy must be applied and, where there is no option but to remove a tree, the loss of habitat and biodiversity that the tree provided must be compensated for by an adequate tree replacement calculation such as that used in the Biodiversity Metric calculation.

We agree that ‘development that is not well designed should be refused (paragraph 133). Designs that fail to make provision for preserving existing trees and providing new trees are not, in our view, well-designed and so should be refused.


The changes proposed in Chapter 13 – Protecting Green belt Land

New Paragraph 149 – We propose the deletion of this text, which is too general and open to interpretation. Certain other forms of development are also ‘not inappropriate in the Green Belt provided it preserves its openness and does not conflict with the purposes of including land within it’.

In Bristol there are just over 596 hectares of Green Belt left within the metropolitan boundary, mostly confined to the few remaining green margins of the city. The last draft of the Local Plan proposed the removal of some 50 hectares for development. Already parts of the Green Belt are disappearing without any hint that this ‘preserves its openness and does not conflict with the purposes of including land within it’. Little by little, development by development, Green Belt land is being lost.


The changes proposed in Chapter 14 – Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change

Paragraph 160 c) – Tree preservation and the planting of new trees are key elements of ‘using opportunities provided by new development and improvements in green and other infrastructure to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding, (making as much use as possible of natural flood management techniques as part of an integrated approach to flood risk management)’ We would like to see text added that states this.


The changes proposed in Chapter 15 – Conserving and enhancing the natural environment

Paragraph 179 d) – This states that ‘development whose primary objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity should be supported; while opportunities to improve biodiversity in and around other developments should be pursued as an integral part of their design, especially where this can secure measurable net gains for biodiversity and enhance public access to nature’.

It is essential that core planning policies mandate a standard metric for measuring baseline and created and enhanced habitat biodiversity proposals. Developers must be obliged to provide a Net Gain calculation when submitting their proposals. The latest version of the Biodiversity Metric Is designed for this purpose and should be mandated for all new planning proposals. All planning permissions should require the delivery of Biodiversity Net Gain plans of at least 10%.


We would be grateful for your views on the National Model Design Code, in terms of a) the content of the guidance b) the application and use of the guidance c) the approach to community engagement

The design codes must deliver three key things to ensure that new developments always provide access to high-quality, local green space and to trees, with all the benefits these provide for communities.


  • Protect and integrate existing trees  

New developments must incorporate and protect existing trees from the outset. There must be a presumption that the design will accommodate the existing trees growing on and around the site – especially those growing around the edges of sites. Designs should consider the long-term health of trees in and adjacent to new developments and aim to promote this. This will include providing adequate buffers for ancient, veteran and self-seeded trees and woods.

  • Increase canopy cover  

New developments must have a target of providing a combined minimum of 30% canopy cover on and off site. This should be made up of a mix of tree-lined streets, community woodlands, Tiny Forests, parks and gardens. Where tree provision will be made off site, the cost of providing, planting and caring for the trees on a long-term basis should be funded by the developer and incorporated into tree-specific S106 agreements (T&CPA 1990). Where possible, trees should be native and sourced and grown in the UK. Trees that will become large and are long-lived should be selected where possible.

  • Ensure trees thrive for the long term  
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Local authorities must be properly resourced so that they can implement design codes and other areas of planning policy. Resource needs to be available for decisions to be enforced and to ensure long-term management of trees by tree officers.Local authorities must be properly resourced so that they can implement design codes and other areas of planning policy. Resource needs to be available for decisions to be enforced and to ensure long-term management of trees by tree officers.
  • Community engagement

As we have already noted, meaningful community engagement is essential if communities are going to consider that they ‘own’ planning decisions rather than having them imposed on them.

We have published a paper on the issue as it relates to consultation on the management of trees which we commend to you: ‘Community engagement in urban tree management decisions: the Bristol case study’.

3 March 2021

You can download a copy of our submission here.

Here are copies of the draft National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code.

The consultation closes on 27 March 2021 and can be accessed here – National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: Consultation proposals.


[1]  ‘a) where they relate to change of use to residential, be limited to situations where this is essential to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impactsorb) where they relate to change of use to residential, be limited to situations where this is necessary in order to protect an interest of national significance’.

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BTF 2020 Newsletter

Because we could not hold our AGM this year, we have decided to publish a number of articles highlighting issues that have been prominent over the past year. We hope you find them of interest.

Sadly, it has not been possible to hold our annual AGM this year, so we have postponed it until next Spring. Subject to the state of any COVID 19 restrictions against us meeting, we will let you know when we have been able to find a new date as soon as we can.

In the meantime, we have decided to publish a number of articles highlighting issues that have been prominent over the past year. We hope you find them of interest.

We wish all our followers a very happy holiday season and all the very best for the New Year.


In defence of Bristol’s trees – Mark Ashdown

Why are we felling so many trees in Bristol when the city’s stated aim is to double tree canopy cover by 2046? To achieve this aim, we will need to stop felling existing trees, failing to replace those that have to be felled trees AND see at least a five-fold increase in our current tree-planting rate!


Miyawaki or Tiny forests – Chris Wallace

Miyawaki or Tiny Forests are a promising approach to rewilding urban areas and we look forward to being involved in future schemes. However their contribution to overall tree canopy is limited by their size.


Don’t Stop The (Christmas) Rot – In praise of Ivy Guest Editor, Nick Gates, Naturalist

There is a weird craze amongst a certain type of well-meaning nature lover. It involves taking an axe, leatherman or small saw, and severing limbs. Not at random, but of one of our favourite and most important Christmas plants. Ivy.


On the Verge – Planting for the future Guest Editor, Nick Haigh

The A4320 Bike Path Verge is a tree planting initiative between Bristol’s Lawrence Hill roundabout and Stapleton road; currently a bare stretch of grass, void of plants and animals, it will soon be turned into a wildlife, carbon-capturing haven, with thanks to support from the Bristol Tree Forum.


Bristol City Council’s Tree Management Policy – has it changed, or did we misunderstand it all along? Stephanie French

Why does Bristol City Council have one standard when it comes to protecting its own trees, but another standard when it comes to trees protected with a TPO or growing in a Conservation Area?


Dealing with Ash Die Back disease Guest Editor, Victoria Stanfield Cert. Arb & For

It was shocking to see the prevalence of the disease in our area when the trees were in full leaf this Summer, a large number of the trees which had been showing some sign of the disease in 2019, had deteriorated dramatically over the Winter months and come back into leaf with less than 50% of their canopy cover.


Trees and Planning: Artists’ Impressions and Heritage Statements Stephanie French & Vassili Papastavrou

Plans with delightful illustrations of tree-filled spaces around new developments, either showing existing trees retained or new trees planted, are so often a ‘misdirection’, drawn in to make you think that everything will be alright and is acceptable, and that it doesn’t matter really. Please don’t be fooled. You need to read the detail.


The Morley Square arboretum Chris Wallace

Morley Square is the only privately owned square in Bishopston. The deeds of the 28 houses around the square, including ours, state that the house owners have the rights of access to the square and the responsibility for its maintenance. One of our main concerns are the trees, some impressively large, mapped here on BristolTrees. Although only covering half an acre, the square contains 29 species of tree, a minor arboretum.


New Developments should be built around existing trees Vassili Papastavrou

We always see glib promises that more trees will be planted than are removed, with the insinuation that the environment will be better afterwards. In our experience, replanting often fails or, if it does survive, produces meagre results, and take years to replace what is lost, assuming it ever does. It is perfectly possible to build around existing trees.


Our 2020 Blogs


Shocking treatment of Lower Ashley Road trees shows urgent need for Bristol Planning rethink – January 18, 2020


Council no longer manages trees on educational sites – Part II – January 27, 2020


The trees at Stoke Lodge Park and Playing Fields – a letter to the Council -February 5, 2020


A Manifesto for protecting Bristol’s existing Urban Forest – February 13, 2020


In Defence of Dead Wood – February 21, 2020


Congratulations BCC on its successful Defra Urban Tree Challenge Fund bid! -February 26, 2020


Tree replacement and carbon neutrality – March 31, 2020


A letter to our Councillors – May 4, 2020


Bristol City Development – Where did all the Green go? – July 9, 2020


Wales and West Utilities helps to protect Bristol’s precious trees – July 10, 2020


Trees valued at over £4.6m are under threat at Bonnington Walk, Lockleaze – July 18, 2020


Bristol Tree Forum tree planting campaign – free Oak saplings available for planting – October 26, 2020


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Bristol Tree Forum tree planting campaign – free Oak saplings available for planting

STOP PRESS

We delighted to report that nearly 1,600 tree orders have been received. We have bought another 600 trees to cover the extra orders and expect delivery soon.

Many thanks to all of you who have placed an order. We shall soon let you know when and where you can collect your trees.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and delays in government funding, there has been postponements and cancellations of many major tree planting projects. As a result, large numbers of tree saplings are due for destruction in tree nurseries. This includes 750,000 two year old English oak tree saplings at the Maelor Forest Nursery in Wrexham.

Rather than see these trees destroyed, Bristol Tree Forum has purchased 1,000 of the oak saplings for free distribution to anyone able to plant them, whether this is one tree or a hundred.

We will get delivery early in November. The trees can be collected from a site in Redland, Bristol and a few collection dates will be organised hopefully to suit all. They should be planted as soon as possible afterwards.

The saplings are between 10cm and 90cm high. They come bare-rooted (i.e. out of the soil) and need to be planted as soon as possible after collection, although the viability of the trees over winter can be extended a little by storing the trees with the roots covered in damp soil.

This form is to find out who would like to have saplings for planting and how many, and for you to provide basic contact details (email and/or phone number) for us to organise collection of the trees. Contact details will not be used for any other purpose.

Why plant a tree?

A single mature oak tree is the equivalent of 18 tonnes of CO2 or 16 passenger return transatlantic flights.

Despite advances in carbon capture technology, the most efficient and cost-effective way to sequester carbon from the atmosphere is to plant trees.

Recent scientific reports calculate that planting trees wherever we can, without occupying land used for other purposes, would absorb up to two thirds of the carbon emitted in the last century.

Oak trees can support over 2300 different species, including birds, mammals, invertebrates, mosses, lichen and fungi.

Trees improve air quality by absorbing both gaseous (e.g. NO2) and particulate pollution.

Trees reduce traffic noise and flooding, reduce excessive heat in cities and improve physical and mental wellbeing.

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Trees valued at over £4.6m are under threat at Bonnington Walk, Lockleaze

Whatever the merits of this application of achieving its primary goal to provide much needed housing may be, it should not be permitted to proceed unless and until it has properly addressed how it will replace and build upon the Green Infrastructure (including trees) that will inevitably be lost if this application proceeds as presently formulated.

Summary of our submission

We object to this application for the following reasons.

Bristol City Council has:

Declared climate and environmental emergencies.

Committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Committed to doubling tree canopy cover by 2046.

As currently formulated, these plans to build new houses can only set back the work needed to resolve these emergencies and achieve these commitments.

  1. The need to build housing to meet sustainable economic or social development objectives should not be allowed to take precedence over ensuring that the development is also both environmentally sustainable and meets Net Gain objectives.
  2. Whatever the merits of this application of achieving its primary goal to provide much needed housing may be, it should not be permitted to proceed unless and until it has properly addressed how it will replace and build upon the Green Infrastructure (including trees) that will inevitably be lost if this application proceeds as presently formulated.
  3. The existing trees have a significant asset value which should not lightly be ignored. Using CAVAT, we have valued them at £4,674,918.
  4. Under the Mitigation Hierarchy, trees should not be removed unless there is no realistic alternative. One alternative would be to build around the trees rather than remove them.
  5. BCS9 of the Core Strategy also states that “Individual green assets should be retained wherever possible and integrated into new development”. Clear felling nearly all the trees to the east of the cycle/footpath should not, as it so often is, be the default option.
  6. Trees should not be removed merely because they are diseased or self-sown, or because they are small or not perfect specimens of their species.
  7. The removal of existing trees inevitably means that the eco-services they provided will not be replaced for decades, if at all.
  8. The adverse knock-on environmental impact on biodiversity of removing existing trees far outweighs any short-term benefits achieved by replacing them.

Our submission

The planning background

The National Planning Policy Framework

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) seeks to ensure that new development is sustainable. It stresses the importance of Green Infrastructure as one of three overarching, interdependent objectives – economic, social, and environmental. This means that the presumption in favour of sustainable environmental development is just as important as any in respect of economic or social development objectives.

Trees are an integral part of this because of the importance of trees in relation to the management of air, soil and water quality along with other associated ecosystem services, climate change adaptions and beneficial health effects. The NPPF also seeks to achieve the protection and enhancement of landscapes and achieve Net Gain in biodiversity.

The Natural England Joint Publication JP029 – Biodiversity Metric 2.0 (BDM2) provides a way of measuring and accounting for biodiversity losses and gains resulting from development or land management change. It defines Net Gain as an:

“approach to development that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand. This means protecting existing habitats and ensuring that lost or degraded environmental features are compensated for by restoring or creating environmental features that are of greater value to wildlife and people. It does not change the fact that losses should be avoided where possible, a key part of adhering to a core environmental planning principle called the mitigation hierarchy.”

The Mitigation Hierarchy

Avoid – Where possible habitat damage should be avoided.

Minimise – Where possible habitat damage and loss should be minimised.

Remediate – Where possible any damage or lost habitat should be restored.

Compensate – As a last resort, damaged or lost habitat should be compensated for.

This is a cascading decision process – only if the preceding choice is unavailable is the next considered.

Local Planning Authorities (LPA) in the UK have a statutory duty to consider both the protection and planting of trees when considering planning applications. The potential impact of development on all trees is therefore a material consideration. In particular, BCS9 of the Core Strategy states that “Individual green assets should be retained wherever possible and integrated into new development”.

We have summarised Bristol’s planning policies as they relate to trees here – Planning obligations in relation to trees in Bristol.

Summary of the proposal in relation to trees

This site covers just over six hectares. The Lockleaze Allotments (a 0.8 hectare Statutory Allotment[1]) is located to the south east of the widest part of the site. It appears to be disused. Most of the substantial trees growing on the site are growing in or around this allotment or to the north of it. We have calculated that, taken together, they cover at least 1.3 hectares of the site – a tree canopy cover (TCC) of around 20% which is well above the estimated TCC for Bristol as a whole which is just under 12%.

All our calculations, summarised below, can be examined in this linked spreadsheet.

The Arboricultural Impact Assessment Report (the AIS) dated June 2020 (based on a survey done on the 19th and 20th of September 2019) identified a combined total of 58 individual trees and 40 tree group features. The number of trees in each group is not given, so it is not possible to say how many trees in total are growing on the site.

Of all the trees growing on site 24 individual and at least 251 group trees are identified for removal. The trees growing in Groups G69 and G74 are all to be removed, but the number of trees in each group is not identified so we have not been able to include or count these in our calculations.

The only reason for given for felling these two groups is because they show evidence of Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus). As the AIS recognises, the mere presence of Ash Dieback is not a sufficient reason for the removal of a tree. We oppose the removal of these tree unless it can be shown that they there is a better reason for their removal.

The CAVAT calculation

Using CAVAT we have calculated that those identified trees which have a measured stem Diameter (DBH) are worth £4,674,918.  As the AIS fails to give the upper life expectancy ranges[2] of the majority of trees, we have assumed that all those trees given a 10+ or 20+ years life expectancy will survive between 40 and 80 years. This attracts a 5% discount on the base valuation. We have applied a CTI factor for Bristol of 150[3]. All the other factors are set to their default values.

The BTRS calculation

These two tree groups and five individual trees are categorised as Category ‘U’ trees under BS5837:2012 Trees in relation to design demolition and construction, and so have not been taken into account for the purpose of the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (BTRS) calculation. A further 10 trees are also excluded from the BTRS calculation because their stem diameters are under 15 cm. We advocate that all trees identified for removal should be replaced no matter what their size.

Notwithstanding this and based on the current guidance, we have calculated the BTRS value at 455 trees as per the AIS calculation.

Net Gain calculation

No Net Gain calculation has been undertaken using BDM2 in support of this application.

We have undertaken our own BDM2 calculation in respect of just the trees surveyed in support of this application. A full calculation needs to be undertaken in respect of the whole of the site. This will inform any future decision about achieving Net Gain if this development is to be allowed to proceed.

Using BDM2, we have calculated that the combined tree canopy cover[4] of just the known, measured trees is 1.21 hectares. We have set the A-1 Site Habitat Baseline Habitat Type to Urban – Street Tree in the calculation. This assumes, amongst other things, that any replacement trees will reach maturity in 27 years and so uses a multiplier of 0.3822 to reflect this.

This gives Base Habitat Units of 5.864 and a Base Replacement value of 3.17 hectares. If we add an arbitrary Net Gain value of 10%[5], then the Base Habitat Units increases to 6.451 and the Base Replacement value to 3.49 hectares. Assuming that a 27-year-old tree has a canopy of .00403 hectares, then 866 replacement trees are needed to replace what has been removed and to achieve Net Gain.

Loss of the ecosystem services of trees

We invite you to consider the decades-long damage that felling just one tree (let alone over 277 trees) will cause by inputting the DBH of any tree identified for removal into our Tree CO2 Calculator.

As you will see, when an equivalent tree is replaced on a one-for-one basis, the lost CO2e is never recovered. Even when the largest tree (with a DBH of 100 cm) is replaced with eight trees in accordance with BTRS, it will still take some 40 years to recover the 10.4 tonnes of lost CO2e. And this is just one of the eco-services that trees provide us!

Impact on wildlife from tree loss

We endorse the following passages from the Bonnington Walk Breeding Bird Survey Report which observes at 5.2 Habitat Loss:

The Proposed Development will include the loss of scrub, trees and buildings which provide habitat for breeding birds. The extent of habitat loss is likely to include all the scrub and trees in the centre of the Site with some edge habitat along the boundaries retained…The loss of this habitat will have an impact on any birds using it for foraging or breeding at the time. The Site is located within an urban landscape with limited natural habitats. Alternative habitats are not readily available adjacent to the Site, though alternative habitat is available in the wider landscape including Stoke Park Estate and connected habitats further east. Habitat loss on Site will have an impact at a Local level by reducing breeding bird habitat in the local area…

and at 6.2.1 Habitat Loss:

Where possible, habitat loss should be avoided, and natural habitats retained. Scrub and trees are of most value to breeding birds at this Site. When natural habitats are retained these should be protected during construction to prevent damage including root compaction and knocking off or damaging over hanging limbs.

This is just one example of the likely adverse impact on wildlife resulting from these tree removal plans. There is evidence of a diverse range of both flora and fauna that likewise will also be adversely affected by the loss of these trees.

The Bristol Tree ForumJuly 2020

You can find more detail about the application here:

20/02523/FB – Land on south side of Bonnington Walk, Bristol


[1] Owned by BCC under its asset number 8397.

[2] CAVAT uses six age ranges to set the discount factor.

[3] Bristol has a population of 459,300 and a land area (as opposed to the Administrative area which covers large parts of the River Avon and coastal margins) of 10,970 hectares. Using this gives a population per hectare of 41.9 (459,300/10,970) and so a CTI Index value of 150.

[4] Under BDM2 each tree’s Root Protection Area (RPA) is calculated at 12 times its stem diameter. RPA is roughly equivalent to a tree’s canopy.

[5] The choice is arbitrary chosen only for the sake of illustration. We are not advocating a Net Gain of 10%, though the concept of Net Gain implies an improvement on the base values.

Featured

Bristol City Development – Where did all the Green go?

The Climate and Ecological Emergency

In 2018, with much fanfare, Bristol City Council (BCC) declared a Climate Emergency, the first UK city to do so, preceding the UK government by over a year. This has been followed up by the declaration of an Ecological Emergency, and a raft of sustainability aspirations detailed in the Bristol One City plan including doubling the tree canopy by 2046, doubling wildlife abundance by 2050, and City-wide carbon neutrality by 2030.

So why is it that so much of our informal green spaces are still being lost, and so many of our trees continue to be felled?

Is the BCC Development Office blocking Climate and Environmental Action?

A clue to this came out of a recent planning application to build a 4-storey block of flats in St Paul’s, in a street with one of the highest illegal levels of pollution in Bristol, above recommended noise levels, in a known high flood risk area and on land thought to be contaminated.  It was shown that the planned development would increase pollution and noise levels. Furthermore, in an area with one of the lowest tree density in Bristol, five mature maple trees were to be felled, removing the last mitigation for noise, pollution and flooding in the street. The trees are on the very edge of the development site and could therefore have been retained, readily complying with BCS9 which states “Individual green assets should be retained wherever possible and integrated into new development”.

Bristol’s Planning policies are contained in two main documents:

These are supplemented by the Planning Obligations Supplementary Planning Document. All were variously adopted and implemented by the Council between 2011 and 2014.

Despite contravening core strategy planning policies on green infrastructure (BCS9, DM15), pollution (BCS23, DM33), climate change (BCS13), flood risk (BCS16), noise (BCS23, DM35) and health (DM14), the Development Office did everything in its power to promote and advocate this development.

The reasons for this became clearer when officers were asked during the Planning process specifically why they supported a development which breached so many core policies aimed at protecting the health of citizens, the environment and the City’s crucial green infrastructure.

The Head of Development Management responded, “With regard to this application, the policy aims of the Core Strategy could be seen as the delivery of housing (BCS5), including affordable housing (BCS17)”. Further, “Loss of green infrastructure will only be acceptable where it is…… necessary, on balance, to achieve the policy aims of the Core Strategy”.

The statement effectively says that, whilst the need for new and affordable houses remains, BCS5 and BCS17 can override other policies including those mentioned above. Thus, green infrastructure that could have been retained is ignored, pollution and noise levels above legal limits are permitted, and the worsening health of residents would be tolerated. This position seems to be contrary to that previously held, with development under BCS5 and BCS17 needing to be also in compliance with the other core policies. As there will always be a need for new homes and affordable homes, the concern is that all other policies can be set aside indefinitely.

We would suggest that BCC Development Office interpretation is in contravention of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states that: “the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development (remember that phrase), including “an environmental objective” – to contribute to protecting and enhancing our natural environment, including helping to improve biodiversity, mitigating and adapting to climate change and moving to a low carbon economy”.

So how has the BCC Development Office responded to BCC’s Climate and Ecological declarations?

The Development Office was also asked how implementation of planning policies had been influenced by the Climate and Ecological Emergencies. Their response was:

“Whilst Climate and Ecological Emergencies have been declared by the Council, the Bristol Local Plan has not been fully reviewed in the light of these and the policies referred to remain unchanged. Changes to Local Plan policies would have to balance the objectives of the respective declarations with the requirement to deliver sustainable development for the city”.   

By “balance”, it seems they may effectively mean “ignore”. Clearly their definition of sustainable development is somewhat different to that defined in the NPPF, with no intrinsic “environmental objective”, and, as one Councillor on the Committee remarked, the development will “lead to poorer people having shorter lifespans”. Unpacking their response still further, the implication is that there are currently no core policies in place to implement the Climate and Ecological emergencies. As described above, this is not true. Were BCS9, DM15, BCS23, DM33, BCS13, BCS16, DM35 and DM14 to be applied as intended in the NPPF, there would be sufficient policy support at least for the principles of the two emergency declarations.

Is this being led by bureaucratic or political decision making?

It is not clear why the Development Office has taken this position, but there are two possibilities that should be of concern:

  • The Development Office is acting contrary to the aspiration of the City’s political leaders.
  • Senior Council politicians who have made much political capital from the highly praised environmental declarations, have at the same time permitted, or perhaps even encouraged, Council Officers to disregard existing planning policies that would otherwise enable implementation of these declarations.

Thus, selective policy compliance allows development of second-rate housing in a race for quantity over quality.

It seems that Bristol City Council are choosing to emphasise some core strategic policies aimed at hastening house building, whilst demoting other core strategic policies aimed at protecting public health, green infrastructure, air quality and the environment. This is a recipe for slum development, and we deserve to know whether these decisions are being taken at a political or bureaucratic level.

Professor John Tarlton.

Featured

Tree replacement and carbon neutrality

The UK aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. Bristol is more ambitious and aims to reach that goal in 2030. Both are massive challenges in which trees have been enrolled to play their part in mitigating the carbon dioxide (CO2) created by human activity.

Background

There are plans for extensive tree-planting.  The government pledged to plant 30 million trees a year, nationally. This a huge challenge partly because seedlings and land has to be found for these trees. However even when planted, these trees will take a long time to grow and extract CO2 from the air.  We in Bristol Tree Forum are concerned that not enough attention is given to the role of existing mature trees.  

Trees grow and add to their mass each year. Most of this mass is in the form of cellulose and lignin and about 50% of those organic compounds is carbon, obtained through photosynthesis using the energy of sunlight and CO2 from the atmosphere.  The rate at which mass is accumulated increases with age so whilst a 10 year old tree might put on a few kilograms a year, a 50 year old tree might add 50 kg.  So the older the tree the better for CO2 fixation. However mature trees are constantly under threat – from development for housing and industry, from home owners overshaded by large trees, from councils assessing maintenance costs and risks.

Here in Bristol, the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (BTRS) is part of local planning regulations and specifies how many replacement trees are needed to be paid for by the developer and planted to mitigate the loss of mature trees. The BTRS is a very welcome and forward-thinking strategy, but is it enough to support the Carbon Neutrality goals? Should BTRS  apply also to council-owned and indeed privately owned trees for which no funded replacements are available?

The Bottom Line

In an attempt to understand how this standard works in practice, we have developed an on-line calculator to explore different scenarios.

Tree CO2 Calculator

The general conclusion from this analysis is stark:  it will take 25 to 40 years before the replacement trees are able to compensate for the loss of the mature tree.

The graph shows the scenario of the replacement of a mature tree such as a Maple with a diameter of 60 cm by the 6 trees as determined by BTRS which are faster growing but shorter lived such as Rowens.

Assuming that the original tree is felled, chipped and used as fuel in a biomass boiler (the practice in Bristol), the carbon stored in the mature tree is returned to the atmosphere within months of felling.  The replacement trees start to grow, but absorb much less carbon than the original mature tree would have done, so they take many years to catch up. In the case shown in the graph, it takes 35 years (ie, to 2055) before the new trees mitigate the loss of the original tree.

Modelling

A model of this scenario needs to take into account:

  • the rate at which different species of tree grow at different ages in different conditions.
  • the estimated mortality of the tree over time.
  • the calculation of a tree’s biomass from its girth for different species.
  • the relationship between the tree’s biomass and the amount of carbon stored.

There is a lot of uncertainly in these relationships, partly because of the paucity of data on urban, as opposed to forest, trees. Urban trees are under threat not only from natural processes and disease, but also from the vagaries of vehicles and humans. Planting sites are often less than optimal and urban trees have no support from the ‘wood wide web’.

The interactive calculator allows the user to vary the parameters of the model using the sliders. This allows the sensitivity of the overall outcome to variation in values to be tested. Different policy choices can also be explored and can be used in a predictive sense to determine the number of replacements needed to achieve a given carbon neutral date.

Summary

Documentation on the website explains the thinking behind the model in more detail, and the sources of data used. The model is still under development, in particular to make it easier to select conditions for different species and situations, and to improve the quality of the model itself. The research literature is extensive but often of limited applicability to urban conditions.

We would be grateful to receive additional or better sources of this information, and indeed any comments on the model itself at co2@bristoltrees.space.

Chris Wallace, Bristol Tree Forum
Featured

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.

Featured

London Planes on Narrow Quay

In the early ‘70s, Great Britain was in the throes of the calamitous spread of a new virulent strain of Dutch Elm Disease which would eventually kill nearly all the 25 million mature elm trees and change the face of the English countryside forever.

In the face of this devastation, the government launched  National Tree Planting Year  in 1973, with the slogan ‘Plant a tree in 73′ . The scheme was supported by the Forestry Commission and the Crown Estate who donated thousands of trees which were planted by local authorities, schools, businesses and voluntary organisations.  The Tree Council was established in 1975 to build on the momentum generated by this campaign.

In Bristol, the Civic Society worked closely with the city council and over the following years, 2000 urban trees were planted. One of the architects of this bold urban plan was the council planner Frank Kelf (February 5, 1925 – August 28, 2013) who was instrumental in persuading a cash-strapped council to invest in this major undertaking.

The centre of Bristol post war was a rather neglected space, particularly the dock area.  Narrow Quay runs along the left bank of St Augustines Reach in the heart of the city.

image

Bristol Archives ref 40826/DOC/40:  City Docks: The ‘Rosedene’ at Narrow Quay : 1960

In the 1950s, Bristol’s role as a port was in decline and slowly the cranes and warehouses fell into disuse and many were demolished, leaving a neglected and ill-used post-industrial landscape. The photo shows the quay in 1975.

image

Demarco Digital Archive : Opening of the Arnolfini Art Centre : 1975

An exhibition of “Ideas for Bristol” was run at the Bristol Museum and one idea for planting trees on Narrow Quay was shown from BCC’s Urban Design team.  Peter Floyd was then chairman of the Civic Society as well as having been a city civic planner.  Peter successfully gained the support of the businesses fronting the quay who provided the funds to buy ‘extra heavy standard’ trees able to deter vandalism. This photo by John Trelawny-Ross, city conservation officer, shows these substantial trees in Sept 1978 .

image

Bristol Archives 4512/Of/12/21 : Bordeaux Quay(sic) John Trelawny Ross 1978

Here is the avenue in September 2019 forty years later, with Peter Floyd, recently honoured for this and other contibutions to Bristol.

IMG_20190925_173402266

The trees have grown remarkably well.  With perhaps only one which may be a replacement, all the original trees remain and appear in good health. The chart shows the growth of the trees over about a 7 year period:

image

There is quite a range of girths, perhaps reflecting trauma in early life or differences in the ground in which they are planted.  The average girth of 221 cm would (using our age calculator) suggest an age of 59 years. In fact they were planted about 43 years ago although perhaps already 10 years old when planted.

The avenue is mapped here on BristolTrees

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The Anne Frank Ginkgo

If the end of the world were imminent, I still would plant a tree today.

So wrote Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father.

Bristol’s Anne Frank tree was planted in her memory on 12 June 2009 on what would have been her 80th birthday. You can visit the tree and remember Anne at Brandon Hill Park near the Charlotte Street entrance. It can be found here.

By Unknown photographer; Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam (Website Anne Frank Stichting, Amsterdam) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Unknown photographer; Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam (Website Anne Frank Stichting, Amsterdam) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The tree, a Ginkgo biloba, was one of many such trees planted in memory of Anne Frank throughout the country. The tree-planting ceremony was held nine years ago to mark the 80th anniversary of her birth and took place after the city had hosted a touring exhibition in the cathedral, which attracted more than 10,000 people and 25 school groups.

Anne Frank and other members of her family were among millions of Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Jon House, Deputy Chief Executive of Bristol City Council, who led the event, said ‘Anne Frank has become a symbol of the millions who have suffered persecution throughout the world because of prejudice and hatred and the ongoing fight to challenge it that we all share. Bristol City Council has an important leadership role to play in bringing communities together and building better neighbourhoods, creating equality of opportunity for everyone and defending the most disadvantaged in our city.’

A chestnut tree behind the secret annex in Amsterdam where Anne and her family hid was one of Anne’s only links to the outside world during her years in hiding, but, by 2009 it had become diseased. This tree in Bristol, and many others like it, reminds us of the consolation and pleasure that trees can bring us, and of the tragedy that befell Anne, her family and all those who have suffered persecution. The Anne Frank trees planted throughout Britain were intended to ensure that her story is not forgotten.

If Anne were alive today, she would be 89 years old next Tuesday.

Featured

Planting and replacing Bristol’s street trees with Section 106 money

There are some 38 s.106 agreements worth more than £400,000 available just for planting trees in Bristol.

BCC Area 01

Section 106 (of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990) agreements are private agreements made between local authorities and developers. Some Section 106 agreements are specifically made to replace trees lost because of development. In Bristol, these agreements are made under the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (see pages 20 & 21). They often also require that trees be planted within a one-mile radius of a development site. The current total value of these funds is more than £400,000.

There are also another 27 agreements that relate to ‘Parks & Open Spaces’ valued at more than £450,000, some of which might also be used to plant trees, but subject always to agreement with Bristol Parks Forum and other local ‘green space’ community groups.

Here is a summary of the current tree-specific agreements grouped by Ward and the new BCC Administration Areas:Ward S106 fundsBackground Notes

Of the 52,017public trees and tree sites managed by the council, a third are street trees. Across the city there are 944 vacant tree sites, 542 of which are places where street trees once grew. Bristol Tree Forum is negotiating to have these sites made available for sponsorship. The remainder of these tree sites are in housing estates, parks, cemeteries, amenity areas and many other green spaces.

None of these sites is available to sponsor but there are currently another 707 sponsorship sites, of which 246 are in streets. These figures constantly change as trees felled are added and sites sponsored are removed. Figures for sponsorship sites where a sponsor has come forward, but the tree has not yet been planted are not published.

These sites could also be funded by Section 106 money. This makes 1,651 sites across the city where trees could, potentially, be replanted. Of these some 1,198 lie within one or more of the areas specified by these Section 106 agreements and 417 of them are on streets.

Replacing all Bristol’s lost trees using only Section 106 agreement monies would cost £765.21 per tree. Planting trees in new sites (sites where there was never any tree) may be more expensive: £3,318.88 per site if the pavement must be lifted, services are disturbed, and a specially designed tree pit installed. If all Section 106 agreement funds were used to replace just lost trees, then some 540 trees could be replaced – 45 per cent of the total number of sites available.

Figures available for tree planting on streets show that 608 street trees were planted between 2013 and 2018, an average of 122 per annum (We are happy to provide the reports and data upon which this table is based on request).Trees Planted tableWe have now been able to establish that the Council felled 1,304 trees over the last three years. We have not yet been able to find what sort of trees they were or where they we located, but it is likely that most were located on streets. 363 street trees were planted over the same period.

* This figure constantly changes. As trees are felled, they are removed from the main BCC asset register. The site disappears until a new tree replaces (if it ever does) the one lost. Trees are usually planted during the winter months when most trees are dormant.

Here is a pdf of this blog.

Featured

The Bristol Tree of the Year Competition, 2018

The Bristol Tree Forum is hosting its first Bristol Tree of the Year Competition.

The purpose of the competition is to increase public awareness of the arboreal heritage of Bristol and the many benefits that trees bring us. We intend to make this an annual event.

The competition will be in four phases:

1    Submitting your chosen tree

Local Bristol community groups and organisations are invited to submit their candidate tree before 1 September 2018. Just one tree per group or organisation may be submitted. The tree must be within the Bristol City Council boundary and in a public space accessible to everyone.

2    Voting for your favourite tree

Voting opens on 15 October 2018 and will close at midnight, 15 November 2018.

3    Announcing the winner

We will announce the winner and the runner-up during National Tree Week, which will be held between 24 November and 2 December 2018.

To enter the competition, please download and complete this application form and submit it to:

TreeoftheYear2018@bristoltreeforum.org

Alternatively (or as well), you might want to take up the Woodland Trust’s initiative and celebrate the street trees near you. If so, then click here to apply for a Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit.

Here are the entries so far:

Meet the Candidates

Featured

Plant a tree for Paul Dirac

The other day, as I wandered around Bristol looking at the delightful, newly planted trees so many generous Bristolians have paid to have planted, I passed No. 13 Monk Road in Bishopston – the house where Paul Dirac, the famous theoretical physicist, was born and lived in as a child. He is regarded as one of the most significant winning physicists of the 20th century.
Sadly, the line of lime and plane trees that grace the road has a prominent gap where a tree is missing. It is just outside No. 13 (which has a blue plaque). There was probably one there once, though.
The Paul Dirac Gap
Wouldn’t it be great if we could get it replaced…and perhaps build on that to plant other Blue Plaque Trees where famous Bristolians once lived and so celebrate their lives.
Featured

In Hintock woods…

‘The casual glimpses which the ordinary population bestowed upon that wondrous world of sap and leaves called the Hintock woods had been with these two, Giles and Marty, a clear gaze. They had been possessed of its finer mysteries as of commonplace knowledge; had been able to read its hieroglyphs as ordinary writing; to them the sights and sounds of night, winter, wind, storm, amid those dense boughs, which had to Grace a touch of the uncanny, and even the supernatural, were simple occurrences whose origin, continuance, and laws they foreknew.  They had planted together, and together they had felled; together they had, with the run of the years, mentally collected those remoter signs and symbols which, seen in few, were of runic obscurity, but all together made an alphabet.  From the light lashing of the twigs upon their faces, when brushing through them in the dark, they could pronounce upon the species of the tree whence they stretched; from the quality of the wind’s murmur through a bough they could in like manner name its sort afar off.  They knew by a glance at a trunk if its heart were sound, or tainted with incipient decay, and by the state of its upper twigs, the stratum that had been reached by its roots.  The artifices of the seasons were seen by them from the conjuror’s own point of view, and not from that of the spectator’s.’  

Chapter 44, The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

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Public Meeting, 4 June 2018

You are invited to a meeting of the Bristol Tree Forum at Bristol City Hall on Monday 4 June 2018 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

BRISTOL TREE FORUM

Supporting Bristol’s Trees & its Urban Forest to ensure a sound future for all our trees, especially our street trees

Our guest speaker will be Dr Kieron J. Doick, Head of the Urban Forest Research Group.

The meeting will also discuss and consider:

  • taking advantage of untapped funds to help plant and look after more trees 
  • wider engagement within the community over tree issues, including the role of tree champions.

Visit bristoltreeforum.org for updates and to contact us.

In the meantime, don’t forget to sign the Tree Charter…

Tree_charter__logo

Featured

Help shape Bristol’s Tree Strategy Action Plan – join the iTree Bristol tree survey

Come along and find out about the iTree Project training day between 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. at Ashton Court next Sunday 13th May.

iTree Bristol is a new project providing a great opportunity to be personally involved in a campaign to care for the Bristol’s existing trees and woodlands and to plant many more of them all over the city.

The plan is to survey around 200 randomly selected plots across the city. In this way we will have a better understanding of the structure of the city’s urban forest and the many benefits it brings us – reducing air pollution, capturing carbon, reducing rainfall runoff.

Internationally recognised, i-Tree Eco is being used by cities and towns across the UK to help inform their tree strategies. The results of our iTree Bristol survey will inform the forthcoming plans for our Tree Strategy Action Plan, setting out our goals and priorities for increasing our tree canopy cover and developing and funding our urban forest and its trees into the future.

iTree Bristol needs volunteers to help run the survey. You don’t need to be an expert. All you need is an interest in trees and have time to help with a small number of surveys over this summer when our trees are in full leaf and at their best. Forest of Avon Trust will provide training and support.

Come and join in

If you would like to join in, please complete the form below and email it to Forest of Avon Trust to register your interest. They will be in touch with more information about the event.

Complete the iTree Bristol Volunteer Contact form to volunteer!

iTree Bristol  is supported by the Forest of Avon Trust working with Bristol City Council, the Woodland Trust and Bristol Tree Forum. This core group will also be working with organisations and individuals across the city to produce Bristol’s Tree Strategy Action Plan.

As plans develop, more information will be provided through the our web sites and Twitter accounts –  and .

And don’t forget to sign the Tree Charter…

 

Tree_charter__logo

 

Featured

Eastgate Woodland – Round Three

A new planning application has been lodged – No. 18/00634/P.

Here, for example, is the proposed new layout.

Eastgate Proposed Layout

For those of you who would like to comment, you have until March 26th to do so. The Determination Deadline is 16 May next.

So far there have been five objections and something called a ‘Statement of Community Involvement‘.

Featured

Tree Canopy Cover – a strategic solution?

A recent study* has used i-Tree Canopy^ (a free-to-use tool developed by the USDA Forest Service) to survey the tree canopy cover (TCC) of 282 towns and cities in England.

TCC, also called ‘urban canopy cover’ or ‘urban tree cover’, has been defined as the area of leaves, branches, and stems of trees covering the ground when viewed from above. It is an easily accessible measure that can be used to estimate the percentage of tree cover that any urban area enjoys.

It is now internationally accepted that properly managed forests and trees in urban environments make important contributions to the planning, design and management of sustainable, resilient landscapes – they help make cities safer, more pleasant, more diverse and attractive, wealthier and healthier.

Research also suggests that even moderate increases in canopy cover within cities can aid adaptation to the adverse effects projected under a changing climate. However, a baseline TCC value for many of the UK’s towns and cities is unknown.

Nor is it known whether canopy cover is changing and, if it is, whether it is increasing or diminishing. There is also a knowledge gap when it comes to knowing the numbers of trees in towns and cities, or their species, age composition and health. The level of canopy cover required to deliver meaningful benefits in UK towns and cities is also unknown, though there is some evidence to suggest that it is in decline.

This study* has now gone some considerable way to answering these questions and revealed a wide range of baseline tree canopy cover across the country – from a TCC of 45% in Farnham to just 3.3% in Fleetwood; with a median TCC of 15.8% and only 132 (47%) of sampled areas exceeding this.

Bristol, for example, ranks 176/282 samples if the 14% TCC identified in a study undertaken by Bristol City Council in 2011 is used. If the 18.6% cover estimated in this recent study is used (the study only looked at TCC in the urban land classes, rather than at the whole administrative area covered by BCC), then its TCC is above average and it would rank 83/282 samples. This suggests that “…boundary choice can impact TCC results and should be driven by the overriding question: ‘what is the tree canopy cover in the urban land classes of a given local authority?’, compared to ‘what is the tree canopy cover in a given local government jurisdiction?'”‘.

Doick et al – i-Tree Canopy Assessment urban area mapped

Bristol also has the added benefit of having already surveyed many of its public trees, albeit some eight to ten years ago. This treasure-trove of data has been collated and augmented with other data we have collected to make a dataset of nearly 67,500 individual trees (though just 2.4% of predicted TCC) and made available to all via the Trees of Bristol web site.

Conclusions drawn by the study

A TCC target that is city-wide and not targeted at specific wards or land-uses poses a number of challenges. It can be delivered in such a way that does not optimise or diversify benefit delivery. For towns and cities that have a green belt (or similar designation), planting schemes can be targeted within this land. However, with comparatively lower populations than the urban centres, planting here offers fewer benefits on a per capita basis.

Canopy increase targets could equally be met by preserving the existing tree stock and allowing natural growth. As the canopies increase so will total canopy cover, although such increases will be constrained by tree loss/removals, natural wastage and damage by pests and disease.

Such an approach, however, also fails to address social equity. Targets based on land-use-based assessments or ward are more likely to align the provision of ecosystem services with indicators of social inequity. It will be important that such approaches are underpinned by a robust baseline and a commitment to repeat canopy cover surveys using a consistent approach.

Species diversity and placing the right tree in the right place are important considerations when planting to achieve a TCC increase as these allow resilience to be built into the urban forest. Knowing the composition of the existing urban forest in terms of species and age structure, condition and appropriateness to location (and therefore life expectancy) can inform such decisions. Given that private ownership of trees can be as little as 24-35% in some cities, but as high as 71-75% in others (Introducing England’s urban forests), TCC baselining studies should be complemented by a field study.

With the wide range of considerations and stakeholders involved in urban forest management, TCC targets should be set both within local planning policy and within a formal urban forest management strategy.

Targets should have a target date, an action plan and a commitment to monitor, review and update. The policies should inform on which tree species to plant. They should also prioritise wards and/or land uses and should protect the existing tree canopy by enforcing best practice, codes of practice and statutory controls in the care, maintenance and protection of trees. Given that the average lifespan of a typical urban tree is estimated to be 32 years, changes in the age profile of the urban forest should also be modeled to at least 50 years distant in order to understand and plan for the likely impact on total TCC of tree planting and loss.

Any strategy will need to focus on partnerships with institutions and on guidance advising residents how they can best protect and look after their tree stock, schemes to assist in management and maintenance, and support future tree planting amongst the different ownership groups.

Finally

City-wide tree canopy cover is a useful indicator of the extent of tree presence across a city. Its assessment can be simple, fast and highly reproducible. Repeat observation could be a cost-effective means of monitoring tree populations, setting targets and tracking effectiveness of planting programs.

The results of this study suggest that:

  • an average TCC of 20% should be set as the minimum standard for most UK towns and cities, with a lower target of 15% for coastal towns;
  • towns and cities with at least 20% cover should set targets to increase cover by at least 5% (i.e. above the ±2% tolerance of i-Tree Canopy) within 10 to 20 years (depending on what is achievable against their baseline); and, targets and strategies for increasing tree cover should be set according to the species, size and age composition of the existing urban forest, based upon a ward/district level and land-use assessment.’

We at BTF commend and recommend this very helpful and timely study.

* Doick, K.J., Davies, H.J., Moss, J., Coventry, R., Handley, P., Vaz Monteiro, M., Rogers, K., Simpkin, P. (In Press). The Canopy Cover of England’s Towns and Cities: baselining and setting targets to improve human health and well-being. Conference Proceedings of TPBEIII. Urban Trees Research Conference. 5-6th April 2017. Institute of Chartered Foresters, Edinburgh.

i-Tree Canopy

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Towards a Bristol Tree Strategy

Representatives of the Woodland Trust, The Bristol Tree Forum, The Forest of Avon Trust and Bristol City Council met last Thursday 1 March to start the process of developing a Tree Strategy for Bristol.  This is the first tentative step in a process which will include consultation and involvement of all those groups and individuals who have an interest in Bristol’s trees.

The process of developing a strategy will need a lot of thought: Bristol has woodland trees, park trees, trees on private land, street trees and trees on corporate land (including university trees).  In each case, the costs and benefits and what we would like to achieve are different, as are those we would want to involve.  The idea is to start a “conversation” which would include an online platform, a number of exploratory meetings with key partners and then, in June, a public meeting which would be convened by the Woodland Trust, the Bristol Tree Forum and the Forest of Avon Trust in collaboration with Bristol City Council.

Without pre-judging what might be in a tree strategy, these are some of the considerations:

Bristol already has a lot of good practice in place, both at a policy level and through individual case studies.  The idea would be to collate all this together with a clear approach to improve the management of existing trees, the planting of new trees and to increase community engagement in tree management.  Inevitably we will need to bring funding to Bristol to meet these goals and a good tree strategy will help with this.

The initial discussion was very positive – it is something we have talked about for some time and I am really pleased that there is now the momentum to carry it forward.

Vassili Papastavrou,

Vice-chair Bristol Tree Forum

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The Oakenhill Apple

In a quiet street in Brislington East there used to stand an apple tree, planted, the residents think, at about the same time that the street was developed, sometime in the 1930s.

It was an unusual, red-fleshed variety with very deep pink blossom and red inner flesh when a stem or its fruit was cut. It gave delight to all who passed by it, shelter to local wildlife and provided fruit to anyone who chose to take them, for they made quite good eaters and were delicious when cooked well. The birds also enjoyed them as autumn turned to winter.

BCC-64242 - .JPG

The passage of the years had exaggerated its natural lean and caused it to become dangerous so, sadly, it had to come down.

However, before it was felled, a resident took cuttings for budding and sent them to two nurseries and an amateur gardener. This winter these produced eight new trees on MM106 rootstocks, for which homes have been found across the country. Three have been returned to the street and planted in front and back gardens nearby and one has been planted in Horfield. There are now also specimens to be found in Hawksbury Upton, Wootton-under-Edge and in Wales.

The last one is going to a red-fleshed apple expert in Leicestershire in the hope that they will be able to identify the variety.

So, what to replace it with?

The location, on a north-facing pavement, is just five metres from nearby houses (so neighbours are particularly concerned not to lose too much light), requires a tree which is small, light canopied, preferably has both blossom and fruit and definitely has value for insects and birds.

The street supports a rare swift colony and there are breeding starlings and sparrows using the nearby house eaves to nest and raise their young. The residents are keen to support all these declining species, especially the swifts which have a very high demand for insect food.

The majority of trees in the neighbourhood are small to medium sized, blossoming and bearing either berries or fruits – typical of a 1930s housing estate. These trees bring a lot of pleasure to all and support bio-diversity.

What do you think would suite this location? Please let us know.

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Get your tree replacement orders in now!

If you would like to get a tree planted on a street near you this winter, you will need to make sure that you have submitted your sponsorship request well before the end of this December.

To do this, go to the Council’s TreeBristol: Sponsor or adopt a tree page and follow the guidance. You can find more information on our own Sponsor or adopt a Bristol tree page.

If the tree site you want to sponsor is not shown on the Council’s map, then send an email to Simon Cuthill, Business Support Assistant at treebristol@bristol.gov.uk identifying the site you have in mind and ask for it to be included.

Good luck & let’s get planting!

 

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Eastgate woodland

Over the summer, the owners of the Eastgate Retail Park, Consolidated Properties Group, submitted plans for the redevelopment of the east end of the retail park. (170/01580/P)  Currently the area comprises a drive-thru Burger King, a car park in front and an area of woodland behind.

The proposal is to replace the Burger King building with 5 new retail units and move the drive-thru restaurant into the car park. Rear service entrance to the units will be required, necessitating a service road which effectively removes the woodland. Marked for re-development were a fine 120 year-old Oak, protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), overlooking the roundabout and and an area of woodland also protected by a TPO which includes 12 specific trees with an understory of younger trees and bushes.

eastgate_oakOver summer there was great public outcry about the loss of the prominent oak  (Bristol Tree Forum) and plans were resubmitted which mark the oak, two poplars and an ash for retention, but with no change to the location of the buildings. The woodland area is still destroyed, leaving only three isolated trees from the original canopy and understory.

revised-construction

The aboricultural report produced by Matthew Bennett of the Bristol City Planning Department is very critical of the plans, pointing out that the proposal takes no account of the Bristol core strategy nor of the tree replacement scheme and remarks that “The group of trees are an important green infrastructure asset which has a historical reference and provided a significant visual amenity to an already heavily developed site.”

eastgate-spinney

Consolidated Properties Group  owns over 40 retail parks and retail units throughout the UK, having bought Eastgate in 2011 . The company is one the the richest family-owned businesses in the UK and is chaired by the founder, Peter Stuart Dawson. The company acquired Eastgate in 2011.

Looking at the aerial photographs of retail parks on their website, the absence of green spaces is very striking . Retail parks take up large areas of ground, comprising only buildings and tarmac. Very little land is given to green spaces or exposed ground. Trees where they are planted are largely functional, used for screening purposes.

Isn’t it high time that a significant part of retail parks should be reserved for trees and woodland.  This is after all more in line with the meaning of “park”. If not, then at least we should resist the urge to remove what little woodland does still exist.

Public consultation on the revised proposal is now closed but comments can still be addressed to councillors and officers.

Chris Wallace

17th October 2017

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Bristol Trees Trust meeting – 2 August 2017 minutes

Cost of planting replacement trees will remain at £295. Only trees planted in new sites will be charged at £765.

Bristol City Council is looking for new ways to fund street tree maintenance – both short and long-term.

Attendance Bristol City Council:

Cllr Charlie Bolton, Cllr Asher Craig (Chair), Gemma Dando, Richard Ennion, Peter Mann, Shaun Taylor.

Attendance External:

Avon Wildlife Trust:  Eric Heath

Bristol Tree Forum: Mark Ashdown, Stephanie French, Peter Harnett, Vassili Papastavrou (minutes) and John Tarlton

Forest of Avon Trust: Jon Clark

BCR Streetscene Group: Rob Umphray

University of Bristol: John Tarlton

University of Birmingham Chris Bouch

Woodland Trust: Catherine Brabner-Evans and Ross Kennerley

Apologies:  Councillors Anthony Negus, Clive Stevens and Gill Kirk; Richard Fletcher; Liz Kew.

Councillor Craig welcomed the participants and summarised the present financial situation within Bristol City Council, which is being forced to make substantial cuts to its services.  In response to a question as to whether there is an acceptance that the cut in the street tree maintenance budget will result in fellings in 3-5 years, Councillor Craig agreed that there would be knock on effects.   The purpose of the meeting was to work together to find a solution to the problem and mitigate the impact.  The cuts in budgets across the council would have consequences.

It was decided that the group would focus on street trees but also consider the context of Bristol’s other publicly owned trees (in parks and on estates).  Notes to be circulated to attendees and further meeting to be held in mid-September.

Alternative models of supporting trees in cities – trust models including sponsorship, civic ownership

It was acknowledged that existing examples are for planting trees rather than maintenance.  A number of participants expressed the view that it was extremely hard to obtain money for maintenance, despite the well-known value of the urban trees and the various benefits (e.g. health and well-being, water retention, cooling effect) that they provide.  One idea was to use sponsorship plaques which would indicate that the maintenance of a particular tree was sponsored.

Tree maintenance concerns, epicormic growth and local community involvement

The implications of the cut in tree maintenance from £240,000 to £53,000 (£187,000 cut) was discussed.  Pollarding cannot be done by members of the public.  Rob Umphray provided details of epicormic growth removal that has already been undertaken by the Community Payback Scheme along the Gloucester Road.  It turns out that the insurers would not accept the risk of getting members of the public to work on highways, in particular, stepping out into the road and working on busy pavements.  However, very quiet residential roads may be a different matter. This means that in general the removal of epicormics growth will also have to be done by professional contractors.

It was agreed that street tree maintenance is a core council service which cannot be done by volunteers.

Action: Shaun Taylor to consider a flexible approach to allow communities to undertake certain works to highway trees where risk was considered lower and training / guidance could be provided to mitigate risk further.

 Councillor Craig suggested two possible immediate and short term solutions for the shortfall in funding for street tree maintenance.  The first was to use some of the money that remains within the “One Tree Per Child” budget, whilst maintaining that project at a slower pace.  The second solution is to access some of the approximately £4 million CIL funding (sum equivalent to a 15% allocation of total CIL receipts).

Action: Councillor Craig offered to come back to the next meeting in September with the outcome of her discussions re “One Tree Per Child”, including taking into account the partnership approach to delivering this project and using CIL funding (both the 15% that is currently determined locally and the remaining 85% that is currently retained wholly by the Council).  (N.B These are just proposals to be explored and brought back to next meeting)

Tree planting initiatives and the future of woodland creation

There was a discussion regarding the present sponsorship scheme for street trees where trees to replace stumps or in existing tree pits cost £295 and street trees on new sites cost £765 (plus the cost of an engineered tree pit if needed).  The scheme was seen as extremely successful and Richard Ennion was congratulated for getting it underway.  It was felt that a dramatic increase in costs would result in sponsorship drying up and may result in existing sponsors (such as the University of Bristol) withdrawing. It was also acknowledged that delaying planting in existing sites may ultimately result in much greater expense as a vacant site only remains “current” for a period of about 5 years.  Richard Ennion also confirmed that £295 was a true and genuine reflection of the actual cost of planting a tree in an existing site.   It was decided to maintain these sponsorship costs at the existing level and not implement the proposal to increase all tree costs to £765. This will require further “internal” discussion at BCC.

 “One tree per child” was discussed and the educational value of the project was stressed with good feedback from the schools involved.

The representative from the Woodland Trust suggested that it might be a mistake to separate street trees from the wider context.

Action: In terms of a way forward it was agreed to look into new funding sources and the possibility of setting up a Trust for the future.  It was felt that it is possible to raise funding for tree planting and this would be pursued.

 It was also agreed to start the process of preparing a Tree Strategy for Bristol

Future for trees in parks

Discussions regarding Bristol’s parks are ongoing and the Newcastle initiative of creating a Mutual Parks Trust is being explored, as well as Newcastle’s success in obtaining £1 million public health funding.  A visit to Newcastle is planned.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Group would be mid-September when Councillor Craig should be able to provide further information regarding the short term/immediate funding of street tree maintenance.

Vassili Papastavrou

12 August 2017

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Please contribute to the Sheffield Tree Action Group Legal fund

The Sheffield Tree Action Group or STAG is urgently fundraising to support the legal fees of eight of its members.

The fund has reached nearly £21,000 (as of 23 July 2017) but it is likely that the legal costs will be double that for the three day hearing that starts on 26th July.

They have been taken to the High Court by Sheffield City Council in order to intimidate them and other protesters.  Sheffield City Council is hoping  that the court will issue injunctions against the protesters, claim huge damages and prevent them and others from opposing the felling of trees in future. One Councillor is amongst the eight.

Graham Turnbull from STAG spoke at our 4 July Bristol Tree Forum meeting.  The situation in Sheffield is shocking, with whole avenues of street trees being removed as part of a PFI agreement with Amey to manage Sheffield’s streets for 25 years.  Quite simply, it is cheaper to remove most of the street trees and replace them with small saplings than to maintain the existing stock of trees.  There have been 5 am dawn raids and arrests under obscure anti-trade union laws – although the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges against protesters. Now the council has decided to invoke civil law where the standard of proof is lower.

The problems Sheffield residents are facing are not unique. The outcome of their protests will determine whether other councils decide to embark on wholesale felling as a way of cutting costs. From a wider perspective, their council is seeking to outlaw peaceful protest. We should all help for those very reasons.

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Bristol Trees in Crisis – Greens questions

Questions to the Mayor for the Member Forum to he held on 18 July 2017 at 17:00.

Green Councillors Clive Stevens and Carla Denyer have tabled the following questions.

Subject: Street tree budget cuts

In May, Cllrs Stevens and Negus submitted questions and statements to Cabinet about the safety and financial risks and the alternatives to the proposed budget cuts to street trees. They were reassured that the proposals would be looked at again. At the time of writing we have not heard any updates on this review.

We understand that Bristol Tree Forum volunteers are looking for constructive ways to work with the Council to solve this problem, but trust is at rock bottom and each time new information emerges it gets worse.

The emergency Tree Forum meeting on 4th July revealed some uncomfortable truths:

  • The Council’s Highways Department did not consult the Council’s arboricultural officers, the TreeForum or any other relevant experts about street trees before making their decision to cut 78% off the budget.
  • The budget line RS02 voted on in Full Council in February referred to £1.2m of Highways Maintenance Reductions in 17/18 and wasn’t specific as to what these would be.
  • Highways are justifying the decision on the basis of cutting back to a statutory service, usually doing this achieves the minimum short term cost. For street trees maintaining a statutory service level is not minimum cost as was and has been pointed out time and time again. We are still yet to see the fully costed business case and risk assessment.

Question 1

Could the Mayor clarify whether he wants to minimise the cost of managing street trees, or does he want the service to be at a statutory level which will cost the Council more (possibly more this year as reserves might need to be allocated to cover the higher risks)?

Question 2

Could the Mayor check with his legal officers the personal liability of himself and/or the Deputy Mayor and/or the Council should an accident occur where it is proven that the Council has a duty of care (e.g. Maintaining the highway) and that the damage is directly caused by this change in policy? Given the facts that have come to light, it seems that in such an instance it could be a case of negligence.

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Urgent help needed to water new trees – an update – more new street trees dying

Bristol’s street trees are struggling in this recent hot, dry spell – especially the newly planted ones that have yet to get established. So, please keep watering any newly-planted trees and send us photos of new trees that are in trouble or have died.

On Saturday, Councillor Clive Stevens – @SageAndOnion  – and I spent some time filling up the Hippo bags (specially designed tree watering bags) connected to newly planted trees on the Downs to see how long they would take to drain.  We used four 5 gallon water containers placed on chairs so that they were high enough and then siphoned the water into the bag.

We can report that the bags do work effectively and take several hours to drain from completely full to empty.  Probably four hours is a good estimate.   As the problem does not lie with the bags, there must be some other reason why the soil under many of the new trees was completely dry for so long.

Several of those trees on the Downs that were completely dry when I checked them on Friday (7th July 2017) are now damp.  They must have been watered some time after 18:30 on that Friday and midday Saturday (when Clive and I went around watering), which is good.

Clive and I filled up the bags of a couple more where we found that the soil was completely dry (between Westbury Road and Westbury Park).  There are still some more in that area where the soil is still completely dry.  We haven’t done a complete survey of the Downs, but the soil under most of the other trees is now damp and there was still residual water in many of the bags on Saturday morning.

The Hungarian oaks on Parrys Lane have now had damp soil for the last 10 days, so the system is now working for them.

BUT on Easton Way…..

We hear from @averagearborist that there is a whole row of newly planted trees on Easton Way that have died, despite having only been planted only last year.  I went to have a look and they really are in sorry state.

DSCN3076

 

It was a great idea to plant these trees but so sad that they are now dead or dying.  It sends a poor message to the people who live in this area.

We are told that it should be OK because the Council has said that it will replace newly planted, sponsored trees that die before they are successfully established.  Here on Easton Way is a very dead tree. 

Already dead in Google streeview 2014

A quick examination of Google Streetview shows that it was already dead by June 2014.  When, we wonder, will it be replaced?

Vassili Papastavrou

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Bristol Trees in Crisis – some personal thoughts…

Having spent 3 years as a climber in Bristol on the Council contract undertaking much of the pollarding work and as a current resident of the city I not only find this situation shocking but also very worrying.

At last night’s Bristol tree forum meeting it was finally officially announced by the deputy mayor that due to budget cuts, which now only leaves £53,000 per annum for tree management, the council will be no longer be undertaking any pollarding on the city’s population of street trees. There will also be a termination of epicormic removal which will now only be removed when reported on the grounds of Health and Safety. Later in the meeting the Highways manager when questioned several times finally admitted that this decision had been taken without any consultation or advice from the City’s Arboricultural team, which to me beggars belief.

These trees which are predominantly London Planes and Limes have levels of decay which you would expect to find but are no real cause for concern due to them being on 3/5 year pollarding cycles. There are many however that due to their proximity to commercial buildings and houses are on 2-year cycles as in the photograph below. The photograph below is in fact taken in my old road and by the time the 2 years was up the regrowth was practically touching our bedroom windows and gutters.

Pollarding Needed
Ready for pollarding…

The suspension of the pollarding program as was pointed out to the deputy mayor comes with many potential problems in the future. It was pointed out that there would be an escalation of claims to the Council for damage to property either through over grown crowns or root damage. There is the potential for an increase in limb failure due to excessive weight and god forbid serious injury to pedestrians from falling debris. One of the positives of the pollarding cycles was that the cities Tree stock was getting a full aerial tree inspection every few years with any defects monitored and managed. This will no longer be the case. One concerned resident stated that his house insurance policy is dependent on the tree outside his house being pollarded every 3 years.

As the meeting went on there was a call from Councillors for everybody to get their heads together and discuss a way forward and to come up with solutions to this big problem. Amongst other things suggested was the possibility of residents raising money and having trees pollarded themselves by fully qualified and insured arborists.
It’s all a bit of a mess and who knows where this will all end up but I am very interested in all your thoughts/ideas. Thanks in advance.

Sean Harding – A Bristol tree climber

Comments

‘That is one of the most short-sighted least thought through council decision ever… It will lead to a costly mess, unless they are planning the Sheffield fell everything strategy…’

‘Out of interest is there Massaria on the plane trees in Bristol? If there is, I suspect it’s possibly quite low in occurrence due to the previous regular pollarding, but that would change significantly if the trees become lapsed and develop larger older wood canopies where Massaria thrives. The potential risk of dead Massaria branches not being picked up via inspection and dropping on to target areas would likely increase significantly. What’s the geology in Bristol? Is there much clay around the streets? If there is, the council will not just get an increase in claims due to direct root damage to property but there will be an increase in claims due to subsidence. of course there would be a small positive in the increase of shade due to larger canopies (particularly in terms of urban heat island effect) but doesn’t sound like the tree stock could sustain that benefit for long. Frustrating to hear of the shortsightedness of this decision.’

‘This is some middle managers and some upper managers in the public sector doing what they do best: being absolutely diabolical at doing anything remotely useful.’

‘The public should not be or considering funding any council tree work. Even if it’s to maintain the pollarding cycle or tree health. As soon as they do the council will jump on this, appeal to the community spirit to get money’

‘How u meant to see decay fruiting bodies on base of a lime tree without the epicormic growth being removed.?’

‘So who owns the trees? Are they strictly municipal street trees? If so, seems to me the municipal government has a legal duty to keep the trees pruned so as to promote public safety. The trees are in the shape they are in due to past municipal pruning. If not, pruning them will knowingly increase risk. wouldn’t a pre-emptive lawsuit be called for in order to force continued pollarding? In the long run, injury suits could blast that budget number you stated right out of the water.’

‘There’s a blind spot in all councils at this level: they can hold a ballot on increasing Council Tax for specific things such as this.’

‘Sounds like we are going to have to come up with some kind of crowdfund/localised taxation system if you can afford it, messed up, leave the poor peoples’ trees to fall apart until someone is injured before any pollarding will take place.’

 

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Bristol Trees in Crisis – Notes of 04 July public meeting

Notes of a public meeting of the Bristol Tree Forum held in the City Hall, Bristol on July 4, 2017 

Bristol City Council Attendees: Deputy Mayor Asher Craig, Cllrs. John Goulandris, Liz Radford, Mike Davies, Olly Mead, Clive Stevens and many senior officers. 

At 6.00 pm The Chair, Peter Harnett, moved the meeting into the main Conference Room, as some 80 people had gathered. He read out a short statement from Cllr. Anthony Negus, Chair of Neighbourhoods Scrutiny (see below) who could not be present. He argued that the cuts to street tree maintenance would create long-term problems.

He then called on Cllr. Clive Stevens, who argued that the Tree Forum since 2008 had built up trust between the public and the council, and that the recent cuts had destroyed that relationship.  Trust is very important to the Council, especially where they aspire to commercialise services and so need a trusted brand name people can buy into.  BCC had, with BTF, been deeply involved in the creation of the Bristol Tree Replacement Policy, which had helped to ensure that where trees were felled they were replaced. Of around 16,000 street trees, 4,000 are pollarded and there are some 1,200 stumps awaiting replacement.

Note: – Trees of Bristol has logged just over 66,000 trees – some 67,300 when stumps are counted – of which some 16,000 are street trees, covering 1,062 species, varieties and cultivars in 2,310 sites.

The Chair then read out the statement of Margrit & John Waldron (see below).

The Chair then asked Vassili Papastavrou to read a statement from Prof. John Tarlton (see below), who had persuaded the University to put substantial sums into new tree planting. He suggested that the increase in the price of new trees from £295 to £765 would simply ensure that all private sponsorship would dry up, and that as a result tree stump sites would be permanently lost.

Graham Turnbull from the Sheffield Trees Action Group then spoke about the way in which the Council had handed over responsibility for road maintenance to a private firm under a PFI initiative, who had then begun a massive tree felling programme on the grounds that trees damaged pavements. A council attempt at a public survey had been grossly mishandled, and the Sheffield Trees Action group was set up via Facebook with 6,600 members across the city who began direct action to protect trees, which led to arrests, and nationwide adverse publicity. He made the point that a PFI contract ends democratic accountability, and that the entire city Tree department had been outsourced.

After questions the Chair invited the deputy Mayor, Asher Craig to respond. She stated categorically that that Bristol is not looking at any PFI contract that would include street tree maintenance. The financial crisis had forced an immediate cut in the budget, and the need for longer term change. A cut in the Highways budget of £1.66 million had resulted in the reduction of the street tree management budget from £187,000 to £53,000.  She emphasised that the risks from street trees would continue to be assessed and action taken if needed. For example, where epicormic growth becomes a health & safety issue, the council will act. Only dead or dangerous trees should be felled. She wanted to rebuild the trust, to work with communities, and set up some kind of charitable trust scheme, perhaps involving the Woodland Trust, the Civic Society and the Forest of Avon, which would be able to tap into funds not available to the Council. A meeting of interested parties should be held as soon as possible.

During questions from the floor a number of issues were raised including the problems of epicormic growth, and whether voluntary action could help; pollarding is a skilled, technical job which should be done by experts; the house insurance issue when a policy issued to an individual owner would depend on the pollarding regime; whether Bristol City Council would be able to defend itself from subsidence, flooding or tripping claims in the future without a reasonable pollarding regime in place (just one or two successful claims could wipe out any savings made by cutting the budget); the need for continued climbing inspections of street trees, rather than street level judgement, as an end to pollarding would create dangers which would start to manifest themselves within two to three years, but which might not be visible from the pavement; the need to increase tree inspections has not been costed; and the need to put Bristol’s problems into a global perspective, with the need to increase local and national tree canopy cover. For example, one mature tree can sequester some two and a half tonnes of carbon.

The Chair then called on Peter Mann and Shaun Taylor of the BCC Highways department, who stressed that statutory and health & safety obligations will be met. They were challenged on the issue that short-term measures would lead to long-term problems, and, in response to a question from the floor, stated that the BCC Tree Officers were not asked prior to the decision to cut the budget what the effects of the reduced maintenance budget would be.

Finally, the chair sought suggestions from the floor for possible solutions. There were contributions from the Woodland Trust, Forest of Avon, Birmingham Trees for Life Trust amongst many others, and a suggestion that Trees in Cities could be involved. The Deputy Mayor drew attention to a meeting on July 20th of the Community Network.

Possible solutions discussed were:

  • Partnering with other like-minded organisations to set up a charitable trust to take over the management of street and other public trees.
  • raising funds through accessing grants from other charities, lottery or other public money or crowd funding. It was noted that raising funds for revenue expenditure (annual maintenance costs) can be very difficult.
  • Encouraging local volunteers to help care for and manage local trees – a bit like the snow warden schemes set up across the city.
  • Copying other solutions around the country – such as Manchester City of Trees or Birmingham Trees for Life.
  • Install rain catchers in parks and other public spaces with trees and encourage local groups to use them to water newly planted trees.

The meeting closed at 8.10 pm.

Statement of Councillor Anthony Negus

I’m sorry I can’t be with you today but have been active in highlighting and supporting this cause since it became apparent.

This Administration passed swingeing budget cuts to services earlier this year. I was one who persistently warned of the unforeseen or even foreseen consequences when these headline numbers became defined losses in service. Some of these are not easy to track but when part of the highways savings morphed into reduction of the maintenance of our street trees by 78% the immediate effects were plain and stark.

Bristol is wonderfully endowed with street trees. Quite apart from the well-being and environmental richness they support, mocked by some, they are sunshades and regulate drainage and pollution.  But they grow, and in an urban setting this needs to be controlled. Without this, branches reach windows and fall on people and vehicles, and roots can damage structures and footpaths, increasing the risk of personal injury. This will lead to more expensive insurance claims and the offending mature trees, and probably others, will be cut down though perfectly healthy, adding to the total of stumps in the city. Increased planting charges will make their replacement with saplings much less likely.

This policy, seeking savings, will not secure them. If followed-through the loss to our city’s appearance, the environmental benefits and our reputation as a green capital will be immense and last for at least a generation. It is possible for councils to accommodate long term necessity, even in this period of austerity. I urge the Bristol Tree Forum and the wider population who appreciate the real value of trees to strongly and actively support efforts to stop this short-term vandalism.

Please help. Thanks.

Statement of Margrit & John Waldron

We feel privileged by the foresight of previous generations in leaving such a legacy of street trees in our City and are committed to leaving to maintaining this heritage for our successors.

Street trees are a ‘common good’ that should be paid for the community at large, however in the light of the current financial emergency facing the City we propose that those who enjoy them and have the means to do so should make a nominal contribution of £10 per person towards an emergency tree fund to help maintain and enhance this heritage.  This could possibly raise a fund of up to £1m to be spent in consultation with local communities.  We enclose our initial contribution of £20.

Statement of Prof. John Tarlton

Alongside concerns regarding the cut in the maintenance budget which will inevitably lead to a loss of existing trees, it is also proposed that the cost of tree replacement will be more than doubled from £295 to £765 to cover maintenance costs to 15 years.

The financial argument for this is unsound. The current cost of £295 includes an amount for the additional 2 years of watering. Beyond this, the maintenance of the new tree is covered by the existing maintenance budget for the earlier tree.

By increasing charges prohibitively, it is likely that potential sponsorship offers will dry up. Also, by delaying planting at an “existing” tree site (at a cost of £295), later planting would incur the full cost of a new tree, at £3000. If the council ultimately aim to recover these lost sites, the cost to them will be many times what they are trying to save with this short-sighted policy.

Hilary Green, who attended the meeting but had to leave early, has asked for her planned contribution to be added. Here it is:

Isn’t it about time Bristol looked at a congestion, or perhaps more pointedly, a pollution charge?  This would at least help to pay for some of this – and perhaps also contribute towards an environmental fund, which could help fund street trees and more.

I was in Ljubljana on business this year – Green Capital in 2016.  They had closed off the whole of the city centre to traffic (except for early morning deliveries).  People walked, cycled, or used the (free!) electric mini-buses, leaving the streets safe for people and free from traffic fumes and noise.  It was also bustling with street life and the shops and restaurants were doing great business.

I appreciate that different cities have different configurations and pressures, however I am sure there is something we could learn from Ljubljana, if only that we need to find a way to deter traffic from unnecessarily entering the city centre, and find a way to provide clean, cheap public transport.

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Bristol Trees in Crisis – Agenda for tonight’s emergency meeting

Meeting of the Bristol Tree Forum – 6.00 pm to 8.pm Tuesday 4th July, The Writing Room, City Hall, Bristol

6.00 Introduction. (Peter Harnett, Chair, Bristol Tree Forum)

6.10 Written summary from Anthony Negus, Chair of Neighbourhoods Scrutiny

6.15 Concerns over the BCC decision (Cllr Clive Stevens)

6.25. Peter Harnett. Concerns.

6.30 The situation in Sheffield. Graham Turnbull: Sheffield Tree Action Group

6.45 Questions to Graham Turnbull

6.55 The Council’s response to concerns. Cllr Asher Craig.

7.00 Questions to Asher Craig.

7.15 Responses from the Highways Department

7.20 Questions to Highways Department

7.30 Finding solutions: Questions to members of related organisations

7.55 Close

Peter Harnett

Chair, Bristol Tree Forum

 

 

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Urgent help needed to water new trees

Lots of newly-planted trees on The Downs and elsewhere are suffering from lack of water in this unusually dry weather.  Many trees are dying.

The soil around the roots of each tree was so dry that (despite the recent rain) it would now take a lot of water to become hydrated.  Your help is urgently needed to water any of these trees that you see.  Even if they look nearly dead, with a lot of water they may come back to life.  These trees were paid for by members of the public and local organisations.

A number of people have raised concerns and Bristol City Council has said that it will now water each tree twice a week.  Some are in good shape – one sponsor has been watering her own tree.

IMG_0446
Just about hanging on…

Last year, the same thing happened and after six months of raising concerns with Bristol City Council, they said that last year’s problems would not happen again and watering would be sorted out for this year.  Much of the cost of planting a new tree is to cover sufficient watering for the first couple of years.

Clearly, it is a terrible waste of trees, time and effort and upsetting for the sponsors for the trees to die.  The Bristol Tree Forum  will keep raising this problem so that future sponsors can be sure that their trees thrive and that dead trees from this year and last year’s plantings are replaced.  A proper guarantee needs to be obtained for the future.

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Too late – these trees on Redland Green are dead

If you know anyone who sponsored one of these trees alert them and encourage them to water their own tree.  If you see a new tree that is dead or dying please email us a location and photo.

Vassili Papastavrou
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Bristol Trees in Crisis III – BTF Emergency Meeting – 6.00 to 8.00 pm, Tuesday 4th July, Bristol City Hall

You are invited to a meeting at Bristol City Hall on Tuesday, 04 July 2017 between 6 and 8 pm.

The meeting will discuss and consider:

  • The Council’s consultation on its recent decision to stop maintaining street trees in the city.
  • The consequences of this should the decision not be reversed.
  • What solutions to this threat to Bristol’s street trees we can to offer.
  • To plan a way ahead.

We hope to hear from speakers from Sheffield, where the Council’s careless decision to outsource highway maintenance without considering the impact on its urban tree cover has and continues to result in the destruction of Sheffield’s magnificent street trees.

We also hope to hear from Birmingham Trees for Life, where, despite a similar decision ten years ago, they are still able to protect, maintain and plant trees in public open spaces.
More information to follow, but make it a date now!
In the meantime, please make your thoughts known by contacting your local Councillor and emailing the Mayor.
You can also Contact us here at Bristol Tree Forum to register your support and offer to help defend Bristol’s public tree spaces.
Please spread the word and forward this blog to others interested in saving Bristol’s trees.
AND FINALLY – Sign our petition!
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Trees under threat at the Eastgate Centre – Comments so far…

Many thanks to all of you who have lodged comments on this application (nine so far). Here is one great example:

  1. This proposal flies in the face of the objective of the city council to double tree canopy cover in a generation.
  2. There is clear evidence that climate change is in part being driven by the city heat island effect. Bristol is already two degrees warmer than the surrounding area. A mitigation of this is to ensure that all car parking areas are shaded by trees- and not simply by a perimeter screen, but the use of suitable trees 20 metres apart to cover the entire area. This particular complex already has huge areas of unshaded car parking, and the proposal would only increase this.
  1. The Frome Valley is a key feature of the city’s biodiversity. It is one of a series of wildlife corridors that form a key feature of the attractiveness of the city to humans. This corridor is increasingly being eroded by development. As the River Frome has a huge water catchment area, which is increasingly being developed, creating much greater and faster run off, it floods rapidly and frequently. The fact that flood water is now diverted at the site of the Eastgate shopping centre into the northern stormwater interceptor will not prevent future floods upstream.
  1. Visually this remnant woodland of the Frome Valley is crucial it counteracting the utter ugliness and dreariness of the developed site. This of course originates from the original use of the site as a football and greyhound racing stadium. Bristol deserves better.
  1. What is desperately needed throughout this site is more trees being planted on the land owned by the various firms in the area, and not the destruction of the trees that by happy chance have survived.
  1. The wonderful veteran oak in particular, probably 300 years old, should become the centrepiece of a revival of this dreary area.

This is our earlier blog. Time is running out to lodge your objections. If you want to do so, please lodge your objections here in the Planning application comments section.

These are the Important dates:

Eastgate Trees3

The Campaign to Save the M32 Maples

The M32 Norway maples are, or were, a group of mature and majestic street trees on Lower Ashley Road, St Pauls. They were due to be felled as part of a development on the adjacent site, an action the Save the M32 Maples campaign group contend is illegal as the protected trees are on public land and not the property of the landowner.

The Development

In 2016 outline planning permission was granted to Mr John Garlick to build a four storey development, comprising ground floor offices and student accommodation above on the site of the former probation office, 31-45 Lower Ashley Road. Reports stated that the development required removal of five mature Norway maple trees. There was no mention in the application or the arboricultural report that the trees were protected by Tree Preservation Orders, a crucial consideration in any consultation, and the supposition was that the trees were sited on land owned by Mr Garlick. Full planning permission for this development was granted in May 2019.

In May 2019, a second application was submitted for construction of a 4-storey block of flats to provide 28 units including some affordable housing. Over 400 objections to this development were submitted, mostly citing the loss of trees, air pollution, noise and flooding issues.

The Bristol Tree Forum was one of the objectors on the basis that legally binding planning policies aimed at protecting green infrastructure (BCS9, DM15), protecting against air pollution (BCS23, DM33), addressing climate change (BCS13), reducing flood risk (BCS16), limiting noise pollution (BCS23, DM35) and protecting public health (DM14),  were contravened in the proposal (https://bristoltreeforum.org/2020/07/09/bristol-city-development-where-did-all-the-green-go/).

Felling by the cowboy method.

Illegal tree felling

At 6 am on June 19th 2019, a crew of workmen arrived with chainsaws and proceeded to attack the maple trees on site. There were no safety precautions applied either for the workmen or the public. None of the required permits were in place and no pavement or road closures were implemented. Local residents stepped in and the police intervened to stop the illegal felling. However, two of the trees were severely damaged. This contravention of planning conditions was reported to the Council’s Planning Enforcement Officer, but no action was taken.

Protesters chain themselves to a tree.

At 5.30 am on December 31st 2019, the felling crew returned. Again, no permit was in place and no safety measures were applied. Again, the public intervened, with some chaining themselves to the trees. The area tree officer attended, and members of the Bristol Tree Forum arrived in support. As previously, the police put a stop to the illegal activity, and Mayor Rees attended to witness the damage. Two of the 5 original trees had been felled. The contravention of planning conditions was again reported to the council Enforcement officer, and, as previously, no action was taken, on the basis that other unrelated enforcement issues were being investigated.

At 5.50 am on November 2nd 2020, an anonymous chainsaw crew arrived, and whilst still dark, during a storm and fully 2 hours before permitted construction hours, proceeded to fell two of the trees. As on previous occasions, there were no safety measures applied, either for the workers or the public. Local residents again intervened, and the workmen attempted to flee the site, which residents prevented, despite being threatened. Again, the police arrived to bring the illegal activity to an end, and the site was left in a dangerous state, with only one of the original five trees still standing. The contravention of planning conditions was again reported to the Council’s Planning Enforcement Officer, but no action was taken on the basis that this was an “isolated incident”. This was despite the fact that three previous illegal fellings, stopped by the police, had been reported to the enforcement office.

A severed tree suspended off the ground by entangled branches

The legal case disputing the ownership of the land on which the five maples are located

Early in 2020, a local residents group, the Save the M32 Maples campaign, was formed to protect the trees. The group has been active on a number of fronts.

  • Challenging the legality of the developer to remove the five maple trees, as it has been demonstrated the trees are on public land not actually located on Mr Garlick’s property.
  • Building and occupying tree houses in the remaining trees.
  • Mounting a vigil to guard the trees.
  • Opposing planning applications for development on the site.
  • Community outreach activities and public protesting against the removal of the trees.
  • Local and national media campaigning.

The legal dispute is whether the five Norway maple trees were, and are, sited on public land or land sold to private landowners in 2005. The Save the M32 Maples group have presented substantial legal documentation showing that that the strip of land sold by Bristol City Council (BCC) to private landowners in 2005 did not include a strip of land on which 5 mature maple trees were located. These include the deed Register, Sale Contract (1), Heads of Terms, plan of Adopted Highway asset 384 (2), Deed of Covenant Release, BCC Corporate Estate Document, and BCCs Pinpoint map (3), all of which are in agreement. If the group’s contention is correct, it is illegal for the landowner to fell the trees as part of this development.

However, BCC Development Officers refused to accept legality, accuracy and validity of these documents, instead presenting a Registry Transfer document overdrawn with a thick black line (4), claiming the thickness of this line undermined the accuracy of all legal documents. On the basis, therefore, that all drawn boundaries are unreliable, BCC regard that text in some documents referring to “trees” is proof that the 5 maples are part of the land sold in 2005.

Accurate measurements from all the above legal documents showed the land transferred was 180m2, in agreement with the 180m2 cited in the Heads of Terms. That this 180m2 excludes the five trees is not disputed by either party.

In response, BCC undertook a survey in 2020. The area in question increased to 210m2 with no reason given, transferring some of Asset 384 to the landowner and depleting Adopted Highway accordingly.

The 180m2 land sold does not include the five maples…. but the 210m2 does.

Thus, the campaign group contend that BCC has illegally given away 30m2 of public land without legal sale/transfer, and that it is on this land that the five maples were located. This has led to a long running dispute and police investigation, and incited illegal felling of publicly owned and protected trees.

The Save the M32 Maples group have instigated a formal complaint about the BCC’s alleged misconduct in dealing with this case. This complaint was not upheld by BCC, and therefore the group began proceedings to mount a Judicial Review, with the help of Paul Powlesland, barrister and environmental rights activist. BCC resisted the move to have the case heard in a court of law, and the group ultimately had to abandon the case because BCC threatened imposing punitive costs. Alleged misconduct by Council Officers has been investigated by the police, who recognised “irregularities”, but were unwilling to pursue the case until the council’s complaints procedure had been exhausted. There is currently an appeal being prepared for the Local Government Ombudsman.

Ground contamination

There is a strong possibility that the 31-45 Lower Ashley Road site is contaminated. The adjacent property is the site of a former petrol station which suffered a major contamination event in the 1990s in which a long-standing leak from fuel storage tanks was detected. A confidential report, commissioned in 2003 by the former owners, revealed that a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including lead, chromium, benzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and MTBE, a lead replacement, soaked into the ground over at least five years. Many of the chemicals are associated with neurological disorders and can cause miscarriages and severe learning disabilities in children.

Despite a statutory requirement, the latest planning applications for the 31-45 Lower Ashley Road site did not include a ground contamination report, and referred only to a “desk report” prepared for the 2016 application. This report makes no mention of the documented contamination event, despite this report being copied to BCC and the Environment Agency, and no samples were analysed for pollutants. The Councils Public Protection group has insisted that a full investigative survey is undertaken, but this has still not been carried out.

Because of the likely contamination of the site, and the threat this poses to the public, the Bristol Tree Forum have advocated that this site is allowed to recover naturally through the actions of the trees on site removing toxins from the soil.

The campaign continues

The last tree standing…

Though there is only one of the original five maple trees remaining, the Save the M32 Maples group continues to campaign, in part to save the final maple tree, but also as a matter of principal that the council and developers should not fell mature trees unless absolutely unavoidable. In this case, as the trees are, at worst, on the margins of the development, efforts could and should have been made to incorporate the trees in the construction. The council and developers regard that planting replacement trees, in accordance with the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (BTRS), is adequate mitigation. However, recent work by the Bristol Tree Forum (https://bristoltrees.space/trees/tree-benefits/interactive-1.xq) demonstrates that, even with the BTRS applied, the carbon (also representative of the other benefits of trees) will not be recovered for 40 to 60 years.

The one remaining tree has been reinforced by layers of protection around the trunk, and a daily vigil has been mounted to guard the tree, should the illegal felling crew return. The media campaign continues, and local support for the group continues to grow. The group has also begun coordinating with other tree protest groups nationally, to share experiences and effective campaign strategies.

The campaign continues!

Sadly, the issue that this campaign highlights is all too common in Bristol, that mature trees are not sufficiently valued, either by developers or the council’s own development office. A major rethink is needed if we are going to protect the trees of Bristol and the benefits they provide. (https://bristoltreeforum.org/2020/01/18/shocking-treatment-of-lower-ashley-road-trees-shows-urgent-need-for-bristol-planning-rethink/).

John Tarlton.

Wales and West Utilities helps to protect Bristol’s precious trees

Wales and West Utilities has been congratulated by the Bristol Tree Forum, and thanked mightily for their understanding and practical approach to a possible future environmental catastrophe at one of their installations in Bristol.

Stoke Lodge Playing Field is a 26-acre site in Stoke Bishop in Bristol. In the north west corner of the field is a gas “kiosk” which houses gas pressure regulation equipment. It was built in 2009, replacing a smaller installation nearby which was not on the same land. It is the responsibility of Wales and West Utilities.

Many locally and nationally notable trees grow on the parkland, a number of them getting quite old now, and in need of some love and our protection.

The access to the compound is over the roots of some of these important trees, most of which are the subject of Tree Preservation Orders. Protected trees surround the compound, and their roots, which are very superficial (as is the way with tree roots) and in places even exposed, are at risk of damage from vehicles driving over them and parking on them.

The W&W gas kiosk

Tree Roots

Tree roots extend radially in every direction to a distance equal to at least the height of the tree (assuming no physical barriers) and grow predominantly near the soil surface.

Typically, 90% of all roots, and virtually all the large structural supporting roots, are in the upper 60cm of the soil.

Soil disturbance within the rooting area should be avoided, whenever and wherever possible as this can significantly adversely affect tree health and tree stability. 

Associated with roots are much finer, thread-like, mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae are symbiotic fungi which grow on or in roots, an association which is mutually beneficial to both the tree and the fungus. They are extremely efficient at nutrient absorption, especially phosphorus, and many trees cannot survive without them.

Diagram of a typical tree root system:

Cars, lorries and vans are heavy. They leak oil and hydraulic fluids from braking systems and power steering pipework and pumps. They also leak windscreen washer fluids. These chemicals are toxic for trees.  In the root area of a tree soil compaction caused by vehicles and the deposit of toxic or impermeable materials should be avoided. The nearer to the trunk these things take place the greater is the damage done and the greater the loss of roots.

Local residents are very protective of the trees – this whole Parkland is hugely important for them, and they have taken its care to their hearts.

Vans and lorries from Wales and West attend the site, both for routine maintenance visits and for any “emergencies”.

Recently one of the residents noted a Wales and West van parked on the exposed roots of one of the trees, so they contacted the Company to point out the dangers for the tree’s future that could be caused by this.

The response from a manager at the Company was immediate and most gratifying. Within hours a site meeting had been arranged with the W&W Manager, the Resident and the BTF BS9 Tree Champion in attendance – all suitably socially-distanced!

The Manager listened to everything we said. He told us that Wales and West had not previously been aware of the importance of these trees, nor aware of the peculiarities of the siting of the compound in relation to the trees.

He went on to say that he would do everything he could to inform future Wales and West employees visiting the site of the sensitive nature of the ground they would have to drive over, and that they would keep traffic passing over the root areas to a minimum, allowing only one vehicle to park on site at a time, parking any others required nearby on the highway. The one vehicle needed would not park under the canopies of the trees. It is possible for one vehicle to park clear of tree canopy areas.

He arranged for good quality signs to be affixed to their entrance gate and to the fence enclosing the kiosk, so that Wales and West operatives would be aware of the need to avoid damage to tree roots at this particular site.

This is the sign W&W attached.

The Bristol Tree Forum has been working hard in recent years, with local residents and their representatives, to encourage Bristol City Council, as owners of the land and as Landlord, to ensure that Tree Preservation Order regulations are complied with by their tenant using the Playing Field, and if necessary enforced. We have had some limited success. This made the attitude and actions of Wales and West Utilities all the more overwhelming.

So, we would like to thank W&W’s manager again for his actions on behalf of the trees, and to compliment Wales and West Utilities for supporting an ethos which encourages community engagement and action like this.

Postscript

The sign (see above) riveted to the main entrance gate onto the site and to the gas kiosk has been removed. It looks like the rivets have been drilled out, rather than the sign being removed by snapping it off, so it must have taken some effort and maybe even some planning to do this. The sign appears to have been taken away.

Who could possible think that doing this ‘vandalism’ could be for anyone’s benefit? It cannot have been Bristol City Council and it is hard to imagine who else would do such a thing. We are investigating.

Post Postscript

Wales & West have now told us that they removed the sign, saying “We put them in the wrong place. Now moved to the right place as agreed with the leaseholders of the land.” What leaseholders? As far as we know this bit of land is not leased. It belongs to Bristol City Council.

Finally

This is the notice that was on the gate:

This is the sign W&W attached.

It is all about protecting precious trees and safeguarding our environment.

There is no single Leaseholder with control of this gate. It is owned by Bristol City Council and the use of the gate and the access to the Field it grants is shared between Cotham School and Wales and West Utilities (W&W), two Leaseholders who use separate parts of the land beyond the gate. We do not know who asked W&W to remove the notice from the gate, but we are bound to ask what reasonable person, with any regard at all for trees, the environment and climate change, would ask W&W to remove it from a shared gate that they may not control, and why would they? Own up please?!

A letter to our Councillors

Dear Bristol City Councillors,

We recognise the fundamental importance of the natural environment, the value that nature has in an urban setting and the global threat posed by the ongoing climate catastrophe. We also recognise that trees are a crucial component in all these concerns.

We are supportive of Bristol City Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency and an Ecological Emergency and the goals detailed in the One City Climate Strategy, including the commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030 and doubling the abundance of wildlife by 2050. We are also supportive of their commitment to doubling the tree canopy by 2046.

However, we have a real concern that the commendable words are not being matched by effective actions.

A principle aim of the BTF is to promote the planting and preservation of trees in Bristol for the well-being of its citizens, the sustainability of urban habitation, the enhancement of nature in the cityscape and as our contribution to combating climate change (see A Manifesto for protecting Bristol’s existing Urban Forest).

A recurrent concern we have is the continued loss of trees as a result of environmentally insensitive developments that are not sympathetic to the City’s declared commitments outlined above. On the other hand, the BTF supports developments that favour a sustainable environment over high density occupancy, and those that prioritise retention of existing trees.

Bristol’s policy on replacing trees lost to development – adhering to the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (BTRS) – is widely well regarded. As such, decision makers believe that tree loss is mitigated by subsequent tree replacement. However, recent studies undertaken by the BTF have shown that this is not the case over the timescales committed to by Bristol City Council and the Green Party.

Typically, tree planting undertaken under the BTRS takes between 30 and 50 years to recover the biomass (and therefore the CO2e) lost by felling, well beyond the 10-year commitment on carbon neutrality, and even beyond dates set for doubling the tree canopy or doubling wildlife abundance.

The BTF study has been developed into a versatile online tool for calculating the extent and timescale of the carbon deficit, with a wide range of inputs. This can be accessed via the link Tree Carbon Calculator, and we encourage you to try this yourself. See also the BTF blog Tree replacement and carbon neutrality.

In the example shown here, a mature tree felled in 2020 is replaced by four trees (as per BTRS) of the same species. The carbon released (2 tonnes CO2e) is not recovered until 2064, a full 34 years beyond the date Bristol aims to be carbon neutral.

This model can also be used to determine how many replacement trees are needed to recover lost carbon within a particular timescale. In the example shown, to be carbon neutral by 2030, a reasonable expectation as this is the declared aim of BCC, the felled tree would need to be replaced by 37 plantings of the same species. Scaled up to, for instance, 500 trees, new plantings would need to number 18,500 to mitigate the lost carbon.

This new information represents a fundamental change in the evidence base for tree replacements, and emphasises the need to retain existing mature trees, and not to consider replacement by new plantings as adequate mitigation.

We request that you consider this new information with urgency and make a commitment to oppose developments where mature trees are removed and tree replacements do not deliver carbon neutrality by 2030.