Guidance for Tree Champions

This document aims to give you some advice about being a Tree Champion for your Ward. By even approaching the Bristol Tree Forum (BTF) you are part way there because you have expressed interest in and support for the trees that grow near you, and maybe across the City too, as your experience and confidence grows.

Our aims are to

  • Provide a forum to encourage community engagement in Bristol’s urban tree management decisions.
  • Promote the importance and value of Bristol’s urban trees.
  • Work to increase tree canopy cover in Bristol through better protection of existing trees and planting new ones.

Tree Champions across Bristol can help the BTF to achieve this because it needs their local knowledge.

The Council has declared a Climate Emergency and has pledged to double tree canopy cover by 2046. At the current rate of progress, with private and Council owned trees being lost to development and disease/age, and the poor rates of tree planting across the city, either as replacements for trees that are lost or as “new tree site” planting, this is going to be a challenge.

There is no need to be a tree expert. You do not need to know one tree species from another nor everything, or even anything, about tree ecology or tree maintenance. Some knowledge about those things will develop as you look at particular issues, but it is not required for you to make a start as a Tree Champion.

Your core tasks are to

  • Put the case for more trees to the Council via your Councillors, and if possible, get funds (more on this later) at least for street tree stump replacements. This may involve you undertaking a local survey to find out where the stumps are. It will help if you can attend some Ward Forum meetings to engage with residents. Your Councillors will tell you if there are Ward Forum meetings, and where and when they take place. Link for “Find your Councillor” at the end of this document.
  • Act as a conduit for residents if they are worried about a tree or spot a felling. You could then send an email off to the Council and or your Councillors if appropriate. You will be surprised to discover just how soon the residents get to know of your existence if you are willing to be contacted. Link for “Report a Problem with a Tree” at the end of this document.
  • Liaise with the Bristol Tree Forum

Other tasks that you can take on if you want to do more

  • Look at and comment on the Planning Applications for tree felling. Encourage others e.g. like minded residents, your Councillors, Neighbourhood Watch, local Planning Groups, to comment when appropriate.
  • Liaise with those other community groups (see end of document) in your area to encourage tree planting and minimise tree felling.
  • Look at the planning applications for developments where tree works are involved and comment. We have developed a Tuition Course in “How to obtain, read, interpret and comment upon Planning Applications”.
  • Attend Bristol Tree Forum meetings. There are five a year of a more general nature, and a sixth with the AGM and (usually) a theme and a guest speaker.
  • Write articles and give talks locally explaining the benefit in wellbeing from trees.
  • Arrange and attend tree planting events.

A Tree Champion therefore coordinates the “improved wellbeing through trees” effort. They might need to be able to deal with officers from the Parks Department (Tree Officers) and from Development, Councillors, the public, community groups and maybe even community press in a friendly, but assertive and questioning manner.

Your ultimate drive comes from an inner conviction that more trees and tree canopy is good for the people of the neighbourhood and for Bristol.

How much you enjoy doing this will define how much time you spend on these tasks. Our “Committee” members (it is all a bit informal) are available and willing to help and advise as you need.

Quite a bit of the advice about saving existing trees is to be found within the Planning Application training modules (soon to be available on our website). There is also Planning Advice currently on the BTF website – Managing Planning Applications.

Looking at the Planning Application explanations on our website can sometimes help to understand what other tree-minded people are talking about, and how and why certain things can and cannot happen.

Funding for tree planting

  • This can be from private or corporate sponsorship. See bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/treebristol-planting-trees-in-Bristol
  • Or sometimes the Council is awarded, or wins, some central government or national institution funds. It is unlikely that TCs would be directly involved in gaining such funds, but they can help with suggesting tree planting sites (via the BTF) and help with the local consultation exercise (yes, you’ve guessed – pounding the streets with a letter-drop.)
  • Another way is by spending the funds obtained from Developers who are required to make payments to the Council when they fell trees in order to build on an area of land, and then cannot plant the number of trees required in mitigation under the the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard on the remaining land. These funds paid by developers are called “Section 106” (s106).
  • These funds are divided up and allocated each year by Committees of your Councillors sitting on Area Committees, and this is one task where you can, if interested, play a major role – by working with your Councillors to find suitable Tree Planting Locations near the relevant development.

Practical help with Tree Planting

One Tree Per Child is a tree (mostly whips) planting scheme in Bristol – funded for the most part now by corporate sponsors. Groups of Volunteers help School Children and Tree Officers to plant trees in school property or on green space. You can offer to be one of the Volunteers. They also need volunteers to monitor the sites after planting.

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/one-tree-per-child

Trees of Bristol

We have also developed several on-line tools and resources to help people learn about the trees in Bristol, their species and the places, such as Wards and parks, where they can be found, and to support investigations into planning applications and planting schemes.

https://bristoltrees.space/Tree

Do spend a bit of time looking round the site to see what it has to offer and let us know at info@bristoltrees.space if you would like to help or have comments.

Get yourself known

You have become a Tree Champion. While you gain experience and find ways to help, local residents might like to be able to find you.

Pre-COVID days this could be done by attending local Ward Forum meetings and asking to speak. Maybe your Councillors are still holding such meetings remotely or keeping in touch via emails. Let them know you are active. Even without experience you are a conduit to the Bristol Tree Forum.

Let local groups know of your existence and role: Residents’ Associations, Neighbourhood Watch, Planning Groups (we can help you find if there is one).

The BTF blog particularly is packed with news items about trees in general, but more especially issues and news about Bristol’s Trees.

Our 2020 Newsletter is also on the BTF website: https://bristoltreeforum.org/btf-2020-newsletter/

Some useful web addresses

Find your local Councillor:

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/council-and-mayor/find-your-councillor

Report a Problem with a tree:

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/what-to-do-if-you-have-a- problem-with-a-tree

The Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (BTRS)

You can find our summary of BTRS here:

Is can also be found on pages 20 and 21 of this the Council’s Planning Obligations Supplementary Planning Document.