Rush hour stationary traffic belches out pollution and the trees provided some respite. I have watched over the years as several of the old beech trees were removed. They were probably once part of a beech hedge that predates the existing buildings (and the wall): now only one is left. Instead, an informal collection of ash and other trees grew in their place. This was a great place to see Broomrape, a parasitic plant that grew at the base of some trees.
There was no consultation of any kind with the community. One day the trees were there, the next they were gone. Without any involvement from the Bristol Tree Forum, the local councillor or the local community, we can only guess why the trees were removed. Perhaps it was concerns about the nearby wall. A careful examination shows that there are no obvious cracks, even close to the one remaining beech tree. Was a proper engineer’s survey done? In days gone by a Bristol City Council Tree Officer defended a tree, similarly close to a garden wall, that the owners wanted to cut down, even obtaining an engineer’s report. Even if there were substantial damage to the wall, other options were possible, such as thinning out the trees (only some were marked with green paint) or laying them as a hedge as was recently done in Redland Green.
Of course the removal may be for a different reason. Maybe what the developers really wanted to do was to create views for their flats and successfully put pressure on the council? Perhaps the pavement will be widened? Or perhaps the area will be dug up for services. I don’t think the removal of trees was in the planning application.
At this time, with the threat of Ash die-back disease we should be looking to keep healthy ash trees in case by chance they turn out to be the ones that are resistant. Cutting down healthy ash trees is misguided.
The money that was spent cutting down these trees should have been used for planting new street trees, something that Bristol City Council says it has no funds to do. I’m guessing more money will now be spent to tarmac over the area where the trees once were.
Bristol City Council should have thought differently. For example, it should have enforced a root protection area for the last remaining beech tree. This was apparently not done and I guess we will see that last tree fail in the next ten years.
At present, Bristol City Council refuses to consult over tree felling decisions, despite requests from the Bristol Tree Forum for a decade. It is almost as though the council thinks there are no inhabitants in the urban forest and that they always know best. Unilateral decisions such as this show how important the government’s proposal is to require local authorities to properly consult before removing street trees.
Bristol has an ambitious plan to double its tree canopy by 2050. Yet all over Bristol, on an almost daily basis, tree canopy is being lost – for multiple reasons. Just in the local area, about half a dozen really large trees have gone and the canopy cover has decreased. We did manage to get one new street tree, in the middle of Redland roundabout but it took a four year battle and the help of our local MP to get it planted. Trees are lost very gradually in our bit of Bristol and are often not replaced. So the change in canopy is not obvious. Fisheries biologists have coined the term “shifting baselines”, where each generation sees only minor negative changes. But the effect over a long period is substantial.
As Professor Corinne Le Quere has said, “actions to tackle climate change have to penetrate all the decisions that we take in society”. We are hoping that we can get this point across to the decision makers in Bristol City Council.
The Bristol Tree Forum will now be campaigning for these trees to be replaced.