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.

 

 

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.

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

 

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 the 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?'”‘.

BCC NPA Survey 2011
BCC TCC 2011 Study – Neighbourhood Partnerships cover

 

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

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.

IMG_0454
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