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 Eastgate woodland copse – Decision time

We have reported on this issue a number of times already – Trees under threat at the Eastgate Centre!Trees under threat at the Eastgate Centre – Comments so far…Eastgate woodland and Eastgate Woodland – Round Three, but the Eastgate Oak and the tree community it lives within is still threatened with destruction.

Eastgate Copse_5

The Development Control Committee will be meeting this Thursday – 21 June 2018 at 2 pm to decide whether outline planning permission should be given to remove the last vestige of an older woodland that once connected the Frome & Eastville Park with St Werburgh’s and the heart of Bristol beyond and redevelop this site. Small though the copse is, it still forms part of the green space in which we live and gives pleasure to many to many of those who pass by.

Here is the location plan:

Eastgate Oak Location Plan

This is what is being proposed – the living copse is gone and a few lingering specimens are left standing alone (for how long?) like exhibits in a museum, with new plantings (what species?) dragooned into neat lines like so many extras, but away from the main commercial activity which takes centre stage:

Eastgate Proposed Layout

The paragraph headed ‘TREES’ in Development Control Committee’s summary is instructive and says it all:

‘The application was submitted with insufficient survey detail to cover all the trees on the site including the understorey, and how they would be impacted by the proposed development. However, it is clear that one mature poplar tree would remain (adjacent to the existing retail unit on the western end of the site) and possibly one mature ash tree within the remaining area of landscaping following implementation of the scheme. It should be noted that the chances of this ash tree surviving are slim, as more than 40% of its root area would be removed. In the absence of an Arboricultural Implications Assessment or an Arboricultural Method Statement it is not possible to assess whether what is shown to be retained is in fact feasible. It is highly likely that much of the existing tree cover shown to be retained will be lost. The majority of the understorey would not survive the works proposed and any remaining understorey would be unprotected and more vulnerable to adverse weather. In short, given the proposed layout the conditions suggested will only be certain of protecting one mature tree. All the remaining trees will in all likelihood be lost. In terms of the ecological quality of the trees to be lost, the following additional comments can be added: The area of green infrastructure contains six ash trees that have been identified in particular as locally notable trees of age and are characterised as being ‘transition veterans’. This means that they provide important habitat due to their age and characteristics within a heavily built-up area where habitats are limited and they have the potential to become potentially important veteran trees for biodiversity in time. It should also be noted that this group of trees provides a significantly greater ecological benefit than a single tree as proposed. The group of trees also provides an element of future proofing the site, as if a single tree is lost due to the natural laws and forces of nature others remain that continue to provide ecological benefit.’ We agree!

If Bristol City Council is serious about its long-term goal of doubling tree canopy cover to 30% by 2050, it cannot allow this endless nibbling away of the little we already have, especially in places like the Eastgate Retail Park, already the victim of an older, unenlightened and merciless policy of development ‘desertification’.

Leaving just one or two specimen trees as a token concession to us ‘tree huggers’ really no longer suffices in the face of mounting evidence that the removal of trees, especially in urban environments, is more than just a question of utility and aesthetics, but impacts us and the world we live in immediate and direct ways by damaging our physical and emotional well-being and degrading the environment we depend on.

It is too late to submit questions, but petitions and statements may still be lodged as long as they are received by the Council at the latest by 12 Noon this Wednesday, 20 June.  They can be emailed to democratic.services@bristol.gov.uk.

Statements will not be accepted after 12.00 noon on the working day before the meeting unless they have been submitted in advance to Bristol City Council but were not received by the Democratic Services Section. Anyone submitting a statement for an application will also be allowed to speak in support of it at the meeting.

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.

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

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

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

 

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