Bristol Tree Forum blog

Choosing trees for public spaces – how Bristol City Council does it

When Bristol City Council (BCC) decides to plant a new tree in a public space they use a structured process when deciding what sort of tree to plant.

This is based on right-tree-in-the-right-place principles which aim to ensure a balanced, bio-diversity of trees across both the local and the overall urban tree population – BCC curates over 52,000 trees in the Bristol urban area.

The Council also uses a 30:20:10 guide when selecting a tree species -choosing no more than 30% from any family, 20% from any genus and 10% of any species.  Their tree planting guide aims to discourage thinking first about what species to plant – but poses the question What do you want the tree to do?  They aim to promote a structured and sequential selection process that follows a logical decision path:

Function? => Diversity? => Design? => Species? => Support? => Placement?

Using these principles, the Council’s tree officers generally try to steer local communities away from choosing a tree species in the first instance, but instead seek to encourage them to decide where trees are to be planted and why. BCC can then match the species to the need, based on their extensive experience of what grows best where, what the likely cost will be (not just the cost of the tree, but also the costs involved in protecting and caring for it once it has been planted) and how the chosen tree will perform over its lifetime.

Looking at the 4,880 trees planted by BCC since 2008, this is what the species/genus/family distribution looks like:

By Species


By Genus


By Family


The Forestry Commission run a right tree right place species selector – Main UK Tree Selector guide. It is useful, but you will have to have a password to use it.

You can also take a look at these links if you would like to learn more:

BCC – Tree Planting Design Guide Supporting Notes

Database helps plant ‘right tree for the right place’

Landscape and Urban Planning journal

Forestry Commission, Scotland

Bristol Tree Forum – Public meeting report

The meeting was held at the Civic Centre on Monday 14 November 2016

The chair welcomed the 30 people present. In a swift AGM the existing committee were re-elected, and others encouraged to join. The next meeting of the committee is fixed for January 16th at 8 Edgecombe Rd, 7.45 pm. The chair congratulated the new webmaster Mark Ashdown on the new web site at

Richard Ennion, ‎Horticultural Service Manager at Bristol City Council, then outlined the way in which the One Tree per Child programme is spreading across Britain, and that other nations are also interested. There has been an event in the Lords, and an international conference, and Bristol is very much in the lead.

The aim is to ensure every child has the experience of planting a tree. Some 39,000 trees had been planted last winter and it is intended to plant another 6,000 this winter for the new entrants. Some 14,000 fruit trees had been taken home by children, and every primary school in the city had been involved. He said that he was pleased that there had been no serious problems of tree survival or of vandalism.

A discussion followed about the protocol for replacing trees that had been felled, especially in streets. There was concern about the accuracy of stump maps, and Mark Ashdown and John Tarlton were working on this. The cost of a replacement tree in an existing site was £295. The sponsorship system introduced by Trees Bristol was not perfect, but did work. Concerns were expressed about use of former pits by Wessex Water for meters, and some lack of joined-up action with highways, and Metrobus.

Teresa Crichton outlined a programme of events has been drawn up for the rest of this year, and the existence of a training programme and a system of checking trees that had been planted. Support for One Tree per Child events would be very welcome.

Stephanie French outlined the system for checking planning applications, and saving existing trees from being felled. She urged those present to take up the challenge in their area. She had drawn up a guidance document that was on the website, and offered help.

Joe Middleton of the Woodland Trust then outlined the work he was involved in in the Bishops Knoll Reserve, and Jim Smith outlined his experiences in Filwood, where he was the designated Tree Warden.

Volunteers needed. Anyone wanting to join the committee, or who is prepared to check planning applications, or who is prepared to be the Tree Representative for a Neighbourhood forum please contact us using our web Contact page.

The chair concluded by thanking, in particular, the council officers and Councillors who had given up their time to support and advise the forum.

Bristol Tree Forum AGM

Date: Monday, November 14th 2016 

Time: Between 6.00 pm and 8.00 pm

Venue: The Writing Room, First Floor, City Hall, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR

The Agenda

 6:00   Welcome

6:05    AGM. Election of committee.

6:10    Richard Ennion and Teresa Crichton. Bristol City council tree programme.

6:45    Stephanie French. “Monitoring planning applications:a plea for help and vigilance”

6:55     Jim Smith. “How tree champions make a difference”

7:00    Break

7:10     Joe Middleton of Woodland trust will talk about his work in Knoll Hill

7:30    Open session and questions.

7:50    End (Building closes at 8.00 pm)

Space is limited, so please use the Contact form if you wish to come.

Please also send details of significant events since last March.

One Tree Per Child winter 2016 programme announced

Here is the Bristol One Tree Per Child programme for November / December 2016:


Trees can be planted free of charge if it is part of the primary school project called One Tree Per Child which combines school children, education and planting new trees.

One Tree Per Child November & December programme 2016.pdf

Another tree saved – Waverley Road, BS6

An application was recently made (Reference 16/04877/VC) to fell this mature and healthy pine tree growing in the front garden of the house at at the corner of Waverley Road and Woodstock Avenue BS6.


Having received eight objections from local residents, the Council has decided that the tree should rather be made the subject of a Tree Protection Order (TPO 1308). This is why:

The Pine is a prominent tree within this heavily built urban area; its removal would be detrimental to the character and appearance of this part of the conservation area. It is considered that the proposed works would adversely affect this part of the Conservation Area in terms of character and/or appearance. The works involved are considered to be unacceptable and a TPO is warranted.

It is always sad to lose any tree, especially when there is no good reason to remove it. Happily, we can all ensure that such threats are minimised by making sure that all applications to remove trees are carefully monitored.


The importance of urban forests: why money really does grow on trees

A must-read article in today’s Guardian.

This month will see representatives from the world’s cities convene in Quito, Ecuador, for the United Nations conference on sustainable urban development,Habitat III. An agreement called the New Urban Agenda will be launched, to address the challenges facing a growing global urban population that already accounts for over 50% of us.


Here are some of the article’s headline points:

  • Green spaces are essential for mental and physical health, community building and performing urgent ecological tasks.
  • The ecological services that trees provide are staggering.
  • Trees can cool cities by between 2C and 8C. When planted near buildings, trees can cut air conditioning use by 30%, and, according to the UN Urban Forestry office, reduce heating energy use by a further 20-50%.
  • It’s hard to put a price on how an avenue of plane trees can muffle the roar of a main road, although trees do on average increase the value of property by 20%.
  • When the New York City park department measured the economic impact of its trees, the benefits added up to $120m a year. (Compare that to the $22m annual parks department expenditure.) There were $28m worth of energy savings, $5m worth of air quality improvements and $36m of costs avoided in mitigating storm water flooding. If you look at a big tree, says Jones, “it’s intercepting 1,432 gallons of water in the course of a year.”
  • Trees can bring down cortisol levels in walkers, which means less stress.
  • It is suggested that, in areas with more trees, people get out more, they know their neighbours more, they have less anxiety and depression.
  • Research suggests people are less violent when they live near trees.
  • A tree psychology study was done in Toronto by psychology professor Marc Berman, using data sets from the national health system. He discovered that, if you have 10 more trees on a city block, it improves health perception as much as having £10,000 more in income, or feeling seven years younger. There are even some studies on urban trees which showed that they reduce health inequality.
  • The value we place on trees and nature is informed by childhood experience. A Child growing up dislocated from nature will suffer, say some researchers, an “extinction of experience”. Sadly, these children will ultimately understand and value nature less.

You can link to the full article here.


Redland Hill mature Copper Beech to be felled

An application has been made to remove a mature Purple Beech  at The Praedium Chapter Walk Bristol BS6 6WB.


The application was based on the following report by Tim Pursey, Chartered Arboriculturist:

A recent routine tree survey highlighted possible decay within the stem of the tree. Drilling tests this week with a Resistograph have revealed that the extent of decay within the stem is considerable. I would now classify the tree as being dangerous and have recommended its immediate removal.

This is the Council’s decision, made today:

A member of staff from the Arboricultural Section has visited the site and agreed that the proposal for tree works can be carried out under the Dead and Dangerous exemption of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. Therefore, in this instance, formal consent from the Local Planning Authority is not required.
However, when a tree is removed under this legislation, there is a duty on the owner of the land, under Sections 206 and 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to plant another tree, of an appropriate size and species, at the same place as the tree to be felled, as soon as it is reasonably possible. The new tree will have the same legal protection as the tree it replaced.
In some circumstances, it may not be appropriate to replace the tree and therefore the Local Planning Authority has the power to dispense with this duty.
In this instance, a replacement tree is required (Common Beech) and I would be grateful if you could contact the above named officer when the replacement has been planted, in order that a site inspection can be made.

It is not clear why the replacement tree is a Common Beech and not a specimen of the original Purple Beech or what steps must be taken to ensure that a suitable specimen is selected or when it is to be planted.

Tree of the week

Katsura, Cercidilphyllum japonicum

To be found at the National Trust property at Newark Park – Park Lane, Ozleworth, Wotton-under-Edge GL12 7PZ.

Originating from China and introduced into the UK in 1881. In Asia it is one of the largest deciduous trees, growing to 10 – 45 metres tall. It is a very primitive hardwood species, closely related to the Magnolias and is unusual in having some features of a conifer or softwood . Each tree is a separate male or female one. The family is a very primitive one and may even predate the Ginkgo.

A more local specimen can be found in St Andrews Park, Bristol BS6.

In autumn, when the leaves change colour to a beautiful pale yellow, pinks and reds, they give off a smell of burnt sugar or caramel. Generally, they are smelled before they are seen during this short two-week period.

This delightful, young specimen has started to turn and has indeed a smell of burnt caramel when the dry leaves are crushed. It is planted on the middle terraces below the house.katsura-tree-cercidilphyllum-japonicum

Also worth visiting are the the magnificent 200+ year old (planted in around 1810) Horse chestnuts which can be found along the old carriage drive leading up to the house, some of the largest specimens that I have ever seen.



A reminder – what Bristol’s new mayor said about our trees

A reminder – what bristol’s new mayor said about our trees


Following a public meeting of 21st March 2016, the Chair of the BTF formulated some questions which we sent to some of the then Mayoral Candidates.

  1. Do you support the need for increased tree cover in a city for reasons of climate change mitigation, public health, education and well-being?
  2. If so how will you support initiatives to increase private and grant funding, facilitate planting and the protection of trees and ensure there is adequate resource in the council to do this?
  3. How will you ensure that the council works with the Tree Forum and uses it as a conduit for formatting, consulting and communicating tree policy and for liaising with other community organisations?
  4. How will you develop an external funding model to bring in business, private and other monies for tree planting in Bristol?
  5. How will you work with Highways Department to ensure all opportunities are taken to plant trees in pavement buildouts, street pavements, central reservations and other locations and ensure trees are seen as an integral part of the street scene?
  6. How would you support a city wide plan to replace tree stumps by 2020?
  7. How would you see that trees are treated as capital assets for accounting purposes?
  8. How would you ensue the protection of the trees in Castle Park (St Mary le Port) from development, which threatens to lead to tree felling?
  9. How will you ensure that the planning department adopts a robust approach to tree protection and mitigation in all construction in Bristol, including construction for affordable homes and student accommodation?

This is the answer from our new mayor, Marvin Rees:

Dear Clive,

Thank you for getting in touch to raise a number of issues regarding the trees in our city. It’s great to hear from people all over Bristol.

I share the goals of the Bristol Tree Forum, and agree that increased tree cover in the city can play an important role in helping with climate change mitigation, as well as enhancing public health and general well-being. It is with this in mind that I am committed to protecting our environment, and the trees around our city.

You have raised a number of specific issues, some of which would involve spending commitments. At this time I am unable to commit to any specific spending, It is impossible to make specific spending commitments until we have opened the books and seen what financial situation we are left with. However, I can guarantee that we will be in touch after the election, at which time we will be able to discuss these matters in much more detail. I will continue to consult with and work with groups such as the Bristol Tree Forum to ensure that we are making policy in a way that is environmentally sustainable. We will in any case continue to protect trees across the city through our planning and conservation policies.

I will continue to bear in mind the specific points that you have raised during and after the election, and I look forward to working with you, and with other similar organisations, to ensure that we protect our trees and our environment.

If you would like me to address any of the specific points you have raised in more detail, please feel free to get in touch and I will do the best I can to answer your questions.

Yours sincerely,

Marvin Rees