Bristol Tree Forum blog

Consultation – Protecting and Enhancing England’s Trees and Woodlands

Communities to have a greater say in protecting local trees…?

The Government has announced plans to create greater protections for trees in urban areas. The proposals would ensure councils can’t cut down street trees without first consulting their local communities.

The measures are intended to reflect the important role trees in towns and cities play in improving our health and wellbeing, as well as providing crucial environmental benefits.

The proposals include:

  • making sure communities have their say on whether street trees should be felled with requirements for councils to consult local residents.
  • responsibilities on councils to report on tree felling and replanting to make sure we can safeguard our environment for future generations.
  • giving the Forestry Commission more powers to tackle illegal tree felling and strengthen protection of wooded landscapes.

Interested parties have been invited to participate in the consultation. The proposals are based on the December 2018 paper, Protecting and Enhancing England’s trees and woodlands.

If you want to submit your own response, you will need to do so by 28th February 2018.

Here are Bristol Tree Forum’s responses to the questions asked:

Should a duty for local authorities to consult on the felling of street trees be introduced?

Yes.

It has been argued that it is too onerous for tree officers to consult on every single felling. Bristol Tree Forum believes that there are often alternatives to felling which should be considered, especially given how difficult it is to re-create canopy once it has been lost. Clearly, there should be consultation on a management plan to manage street trees. In other words if the goal is to stabilise canopy loss and even increase it, then a cost-benefit analysis has to be done to see if this might better be achieved by retaining an existing tree and managing its defects, or felling it and replacing with several new trees. The key is to consider street trees as capital assets. Thus, the cost of their replacement should be included in any management programme.

In addition, there should be consultation over planned major highways works to ensure that the minimum number of trees are lost, as well as taking the opportunity to maximise the possibility of planting new ones during the works.

Do you agree with the proposed scope of the duty to consult?

No.

Street trees form just one part of the urban forest.

Giving just street trees special protection without also protecting the wider urban forest and allowing consultation on all issues affecting the place of trees in the whole urban space, will result in the fragmentation of policies affecting the way the urban forest and its contribution to green infrastructure is managed.

Do you agree with the government’s preferred approach of a closed consultation with trigger point?

No.

These are the three consultation models proposed (the government’s preference is for option C):

Our preferred option is Option A: Full Consultation.

Placing notices just on trees will only inform those who happen to pass the tree and might or might not then take an interest.

At the very least, the notice should be published online.  This should not create an undue addition bureaucratic burden on Local authorities, as most will have tree management systems already in place that can be adapted to facilitate the automatic publication of these notices.

In this way those with a wider interest in the protection of street trees, such as Bristol Tree Forum and other community groups, will have an opportunity to engage in the process and offer comments and insights which those living locally (an area of just 100m2?) who are invited to make ad hoc comments in particular instances might not necessarily be aware of.

In any event, defining ‘local residents’ as just those living inside a 100m2 area is very unlikely to include all those who might take want to make a comment. For example removing a single tree from among many planted along a street is likely to be of interest to all the residents of the street, not just those living within 100 metres. Busy roads, where street trees are vitally needed, often have few residents. Another reason why it is necessary to involve local groups in consultation.

In what circumstances do you think a tree should be exempt from the duty to consult?

Only dangerous trees which present an immediate danger (‘immediate danger’ will need to be very carefully defined) where work is urgently needed to remove that danger should be felled without prior consultation. 

In all other circumstances, trees can be (and should have been) progressively managed in line with well-established risk management processes which will monitor any risk over time as it develops.

Even dead trees have a place in the urban biosphere, and may not necessarily need to be removed just because they are dead but do not present an immediate danger.

We are also concerned that, if the duty to consult is too widely exempted, it will undermine the wider purpose of this policy to require public bodies to consult.

In any event, all consultations should be “proper” as defined by Lord Woolf in R v North East Devon Health Authority, ex parte Coughlan [2001] QB 213 (para 108):  “…To be proper, consultation must be undertaken at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage; it must include sufficient reasons for particular proposals to allow those consulted to give intelligent consideration and an intelligent response; adequate time must be given for this purpose; and the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account when the ultimate decision is taken…”.

Do you think it is appropriate that trees of special historic or cultural significance are subject to a more rigorous consultation process?

Yes.

Do you agree with the criteria for designating a tree of special historic or cultural significance?

Yes.

Are there any other categories which should be included?

Trees falling within the definitions of Ancient and Veteran trees as set out in Natural England’s standing advice, “Ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees: protecting them from development” should also be made subject to a more rigorous consultation process. For this to be effective, Local authorities will need to develop registers of ancient and veteran trees.

Also Trees subject to a Tree Preservation Order or growing in a Conservation Area where the Local Authority does not consider that a prior planning application is required because the proposed works fall come within Permitted Development Rights (or for any other reason) should also be included. See, for example, Bristol City Council’s response to Cotham School’s proposal to erect a fence around Stoke Lodge Playing Fields in such a way that trees protected by a TPO would be damaged; Bristol City Council did not require the school to make a planning application for prior consent to work in and around these trees because the works (it decided) fell within the school’s permitted development rights. The Council’s approach, which seems to be unique across the UK, has had the effect of denying the community an opportunity to make representations or offer comments as it would have been able to do had a planning application been required.

There also needs to be a process to allow TPOs to be put on important trees that are on public land, and to facilitate the process of consultation when this is being done.

Do you think that the duty to consult will have any negative impacts on development?

No.

Should consultations be done on an individual basis or in groups of trees where, for example, trees are planted in the same location?

The duty to consult will depend on the circumstances. In some cases it may be more appropriate to impose a duty to consult where a group of trees is likely to be affected – say a wood, copse or grove or were some or all of the trees in a given street are under consideration. In other circumstances, it will be sufficient to consult where only an individual tree is under consideration.

In addition, there should be proper consultation regarding the management principles to be taken into consideration when making a decision on any tree or group of trees.

Should a duty on local authorities to report on tree felling and planting be introduced?

Without open access to such decisions there is no way for communities to engage with decisions either on a case-by-case basis or in a wider and more long-term context where trends and outcomes may not be immediately visible but evolve over time.

Reports on planting should stipulate the size of trees, tree species and the category of spaces where they have been planted (e.g. streets).  Planting one street tree is several hundred times more expensive than planting a whip in a park, but it is not simply a numbers game.

Which trees would it be useful to report on?

All trees in the Local Authority’s tree stock need to be reported on and mapped. 

This might be on a tree-by-tree basis (such as street trees), or where clearly definable canopy areas can be mapped, and it is impracticable to survey every tree within the canopy. In many cases the importance of trees lies not just in their individual existence, but also in the contribution they make to overall tree canopy cover (TCC).

Please explain the reason for your answer.

Trees do not just serve an aesthetic role or provide visual amenity in the urban environment. Increasingly it is recognised that they also provide significant environmental and health benefits – carbon and pollution capture, rainfall run-off and heat island mitigation together with acknowledged health benefits are just some examples. It is now widely accepted that the effective management of urban tree stocks to enhance these effects has become an essential tool in helping public authorities and urban communities to mitigate some of the negative effects of living in the urban space.

So, if there is no understanding of what a Local Authority’s tree stock is, then there is little prospect of taking advantage of what it can and might offer.

What information do you think local authorities could gather and hold?

The data maintained by Bristol City Council and available as open data via its web page Open Data Bristol and its ArcGIS servers is a model of how Local authorities  can gather and hold information about their tree stocks.

How could local authorities present this information?

See our answer to question 16. There are many other similar examples across the UK.  By publishing its base data (preferably built on a consistent national data model structure) about tree stocks in an open access data format. Local authorities can also enable community engagement and so allow more sophisticated and enriched knowledge systems to be developed by local communities.

For example, Bristol Tree Forum has developed its sister Trees of Bristol web site which provides a much richer, interactive experience for users than is available just by presenting the raw data.

Should national Government play a role in collating and managing information?

Yes.

By publishing national best practice standards and devising a standard framework whereby data is gathered, including ensuring that the data generated is available through publicly accessible open data platforms and formatted to be machine readable.

Do you agree that Tree and Woodland Strategies help local authorities and the public to manage their trees and woodlands?

Yes.

Would best practice guidance be sufficient for local authorities and the public?

No.

Best practice is very important and must be encouraged, but without a legal framework which obliges Local authorities (and other public bodies) to comply with their obligation to consult and which gives communities a prompt and inexpensive way of obliging them to do so, there is little or any prospect of success.

Do you agree with the suggested content for best practice guidance for Tree and Woodland Strategies?

Yes

Government should produce best practice guidance to support local authorities in drawing up, consulting on and publishing their Tree and Woodland strategies to enable them to take a long-term, strategic approach to these resources, and provide another route for them to set out their tree policies clearly to the public and so increase transparency and accountability.

Do you support these measures?

Yes.

But there should be additional measures such as those addressed in this response.

The Stoke Lodge Lucombe Oak wins Bristol Tree of the Year 2018

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the inaugural Bristol Tree Forum’s Tree of the Year competition is the Lucombe Oak, submitted by the community group We Love Stoke LodgeThe Lucombe Oak was a clear winner with 584 votes out of the 1,269 confirmed votes cast for the eleven entries. 

We Love Stoke Lodge is an informal community group of local residents based around Stoke Lodge, a 26-acre park and recreational area in Stoke Bishop in the north-west of Bristol.

The group writes:

The Lucombe Oak is a cross between a Turkey Oak and a Cork Oak. It was first raised by an Exeter nurseryman, William Lucombe, in 1762. It is unusual in the fact that it keeps its leaves over winter. The story goes that William Lucombe was so attached to his special oak that he felled the original specimen to provide wood for his own coffin and kept the boards under his bed until he died. However, he lived an exceptionally long life, dying at the age of 102 years, by which time the planks had decayed in the Devon damp. To quote an article from Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, this showed ‘that Lucombe knew more about growing trees than preserving them’. On his death timber from one of his early propagations was used to make his coffin instead.

Notwithstanding the tree’s fascinating history, so many of our community hold treasured memories of this tree dating back over four generations. At a recent community picnic those in their nineties sat alongside primary school children of today talking about the best picnics they have had under our beloved tree and sharing tips on how to climb it wonderful branches. This tree is the meeting point for many sports and well-being groups. Its branches shade baby groups, yoga classes, families and friends from the sun (and the rain) every day – as it has done for hundreds of years ! This tree is a not just located in the centre of our community, it is part of it.

The runner-up is the Brislington Brook Plane Tree, with 399 votes and submitted by Friends of Brislington Brook, a community group which works to enhance and look after the green spaces that are Nightingale Valley and St Annes Wood

The group writes:

This giant London plane tree that dominates an area of Brislington’s Nightingale Valley is, together with the nearby pack-horse bridge, one of the features that help define this unexpected green haven. Its trunk was once an open hollow, tempting the mischievous to light fires within it so a few years ago a local action group walled it up. This has given rise to a legend that a witch is entombed within. Many generations of Brislingtonians have picnicked in its shade, swung across the brook from ropes attached to its boughs or caught tiddlers beneath it. It has a symbolic significance: It’s tall, it’s strong, it’s seen adversity, it endures.

We would like to thank all those who submitted a nominee. We were delighted to receive such a varied and eclectic range of wonderful and inspiring trees, both living and dead. An inspiration for next year’s competition.

Our congratulations to the winner and the runner-up and thank you to all those who voted.

For more information about the competition and the votes cast for each entry, click on this link – Bristol Tree of the Year 2018.

Bristol Tree Forum Public Meeting is tomorrow evening…

6 pm, Thursday 8th November 2018 at City Hall, Bristol – Room 1P09

Agenda

  1. AGM

  2. Update on Bristol i-Tree Survey by Jon Clark of FoAT.

  3. Update on the Bristol Tree Strategy Action Plan by Catherine Brabner-Evans of the Woodland Trust.

  4. Bristol City Council tree planting and maintenance update.

  5. Update on planting trees using Section 106 and CIL funding and plans for 2019.

  6. The role of the tree champion.

Voting for our Bristol Tree of the Year 2018 is open.

You can cast your vote here.

Voting closes on 15th November.

The Bristol Tree of the Year Competition 2018 – Voting now open!

The Bristol Tree Forum is hosting its first Bristol Tree of the Year Competition. Our aim is to increase public awareness of the arboreal heritage of Bristol and the many benefits that trees bring us.

Now it is time to vote for your favourite tree!

Voting will close at midnight on Thursday, 15 November 2018. 

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 cast your vote, please click on this link

Bristol Tree of the Year 2018

Bristol Tree Forum Public Meeting

6 pm, Thursday 8th November 2018 at City Hall, Bristol – Room 1P09

Agenda

  1. AGM

  2. Update on Bristol i-Tree Survey by Jon Clark of FoAT.

  3. Update on the Bristol Tree Strategy Action Plan by Catherine Brabner-Evans of the Woodland Trust.

  4. Bristol City Council tree planting and maintenance update.

  5. Update on planting trees using Section 106 and CIL funding and plans for 2019.

  6. The role of the tree champion.

Voting for our Bristol Tree of the Year 2018 is open.

You can cast your vote here.

Voting closes on 15th November.

Ancient and Veteran Trees explained

These two terms are in common use, but they have specific meanings when it comes to their conservation. All ancient trees are veterans, but a tree may qualify as a veteran without being ancient.  Most British trees increase in girth over their lifetimes by 2.5 cm a year. They grow faster when young, when in the open as opposed to woodland, and when in good soil rather than bad. They grow slower as they get older. Some species grow faster than average, such as Black Poplar, Plane, and Wellingtonia, and some more slowly, especially Limes and Hawthorns.

Trees are very good at vegetative reproduction, so that they are effectively eternal. Some create their own clumps, each tree being a clone. They do this by branches that arch down to the ground, root, and send up new vertical trees. The Tortworth Chestnut, which was regarded as ancient in King Johns reign, is a good example, but some of the limes on the Downs are doing this. Some trees send up new shoots from the base of the trunk which eventually replace the original tree. Many trees if cut to the ground, by storm or men, will promptly create new shoots, and this is the basis of coppicing which was a standard woodland management tool from at least Roman times. There is a Small-leaved Lime at Westonbirt Arboretum that now consists of a ring of clones about forty metres in diameter.

Ancient trees should be at least two hundred years old, and hence have a girth of more than five metres. I have measured 120 trees in Bristol with this girth, and there are many more in Ashton Court that I have not checked.   They matter because they provide a range of habitats to a range of species. They are always hollow, often squat,  having long since lost their upper branches, their hearts eaten out by fungi and beetles, full of nooks and crannies, and often clothed in lichens and ferns. They are most frequently Oaks, Sweet Chestnuts, Planes and Cedars.

Veteran trees are defined by their individuality. They will be mature, around 140/150 years old, about three metres in girth, mostly still standing tall. Fine, significant specimens of their species both in form and biodiversity. They are candidates to become Ancient, they may be starting to go hollow, and hence be of concern. They may need management to avoid their becoming top heavy, or developing a dangerous lean. They will stand out from other trees in their particular locality and may have planning protection as a consequence. They may also have special features of note, such as being multi-trunked.

Trees and Planning

The National Policy Planning Framework document (issued in July 2018) has the following definitions at Appendix 2: Glossary.

Ancient or veteran tree: A tree which, because of its age, size and condition, is of exceptional biodiversity, cultural or heritage value. All ancient trees are veteran trees. Not all veteran trees are old enough to be ancient, but are old relative to other trees of the same species. Very few trees of any species reach the ancient life-stage.

Ancient Woodland. An area of woodland that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. It includes ancient semi-natural woodland and plantations on ancient woodland sites.

Irreplaceable habitat: Habitats which would be technically very difficult (or take a very significant time) to restore, recreate or replace once destroyed, taking into account their
age, uniqueness, species diversity or rarity. They include…ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees….

Paragraph 175 (at page 51) of the framework states:

When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles:

c) development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists;

Paragraph 2.17.6 of DM17: Development Involving Existing Green Infrastructure – part of the Bristol Local Plan echoes this:

Due to their characteristics and value, Aged and Veteran trees are considered to be of relatively greater importance than other trees and even trees of a similar species. Aged trees, by definition, have developed characteristics associated with great age and often have particular landscape and townscape value. Veteran trees are considered to have particularly important nature conservation value. Both will often have significant visual amenity, and potentially historic and cultural importance. As such their loss or harm will not be permitted, and the design and layout of development will be expected to integrate them into development.

These guidelines apply whether the tree or woodland grows in a public or a private place.

R L Bland

About Richard

Veteran pine threatened with destruction

There is a Black Pine (a Pinus nigra) in the back garden of 32 St John’s Road, Clifton, BS8 that its current owner wants removed. Its size suggests that it is probably at least 100 years old. If anything, and given the amount of management it has survived, it is more likely to be about 140 years old as it is very similar to the Black Pines on the Downs which were mostly planted around 1880. It has been protected by a Tree Preservation Order since 2005.

The tree is not easily seen from St John’s Road, but if you go round the corner to Chantry Rd and look north between the back gardens you cannot miss it. It is magnificent! 20 metres tall, with a stately crown around seven metres wide and a stem diameter of 85 cm.

St John's Rd Pinus nigra

The applicant no longer wants us to see the arboricultural report, based on an inspection of the tree in January 2017 (submitted with a recent application, but now withdrawn) which does not agree that the tree needs to go. Even though its previous management has been less than ideal with some resulting damage and there are the usual signs of ‘decay’ associated with the tree’s age, the tree is in ‘fair condition with no risk of imminent decline‘.

The surveyor goes on to observe that ‘The tree is a prominent specimen within the local landscape with high visual amenity. Being evergreen its prominence increases during the winter months, when the surrounding deciduous trees have lost their leaves.

He concludes ‘In my opinion the tree may be retained in the short to medium term…I recommend that it is inspected annually and after periods of extreme weather’.

Despite this, the owner wants it gone and has even persuaded some of their neighbours to support the application, with complaints of the fear of it coming down or losing its branches, and the inconvenience of fallen pine needles and possible blocked gutters.

The new National Policy Planning Framework document (July 2018) has the following definitions at Appendix 2: Glossary.

Ancient or veteran tree: A tree which, because of its age, size and condition, is of exceptional biodiversity, cultural or heritage value. All ancient trees are veteran trees. Not all veteran trees are old enough to be ancient, but are old relative to other trees of the same species. Very few trees of any species reach the ancient life-stage.

Irreplaceable habitat: Habitats which would be technically very difficult (or take a very significant time) to restore, recreate or replace once destroyed, taking into account their
age, uniqueness, species diversity or rarity. They include…ancient and veteran trees….

Paragraph 175 (at page 51) of the framework states:

When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles:

c) development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists;

Paragraph 2.17.6 of DM17: Development Involving Existing Green Infrastructure – part of the Bristol Local Plan echoes this:

Due to their characteristics and value, Aged and Veteran trees are considered to be of relatively greater importance than other trees and even trees of a similar species. Aged trees, by definition, have developed characteristics associated with great age and often have particular landscape and townscape value. Veteran trees are considered to have particularly important nature conservation value. Both will often have significant visual amenity, and potentially historic and cultural importance. As such their loss or harm will not be permitted, and the design and layout of development will be expected to integrate them into development.

Whilst this application to fell the St John’s Road pine is not, perhaps, strictly ‘development’ in the way that these policies intend, the principles they adopt must surely still apply.

A tree in a private space is not the exclusive preserve of those who happen to own it at any given moment, to stand or fall as whim dictates. We all benefit from trees, whether publicly or privately owned, and our planning law recognises that.

The St John’s Road pine probably has a CAVAT value of around £96,500, but this hardly begins to describe its true value to us – the delight it gives when first seen, the web of life it sustains in its branches, trunk and roots – never mind the carbon it has sequestered or the pollution we have dumped it has absorbed or the oxygen it has generated!

The pine may not be an ancient tree, but it is certainly a veteran tree, with all the characteristics that our national and local planning policies describe. Its value to the wider Bristol community has already been acknowledged by making it the subject of a Tree Preservation Order and requiring permission to be granted before anything can be done to it.

Bristol’s Mayor, Marvin Rees has challenged us to double tree canopy cover from around 15% to 30% by 2050. If we are serious about achieving this, then we must also resist these ad hoc attempts to remove trees like the St John’s Road pine.

The current planning application may be found by going to Welcome to Planning Online page, selecting Planning – Simple Search option at the bottom and entering 18/04039/VP in the last field at the bottom of the page. Press Search and , after a few moments, you will be taken to the Planning- Application Summary page headed ‘18/04039/VP | Austrian Pine (T1) per TPO No 940 – fell. | 32 St Johns Road Clifton Bristol BS8 2HG’.  The documents, including various comments made to date, can be found under the Documents tab.

If you agree with us, and object to this magnificent pine being destroyed, please lodge your comments saying so on the planning website using Comments tab in the link above asap. We offer help navigating the Planning pages and with filling in your comments here.