Arborist issues urban deforestation warning

Poor planning decisions and enforcement is leading to "alarming" rates of deforestation of urban trees in the UK, according to arborist Jeremy Barrell.

Speaking at the World Wildlife Fund inaugural Sustainable Cities & Communities conference in Geneva last month, Barrell, a consultant with Barrell Tree Consultancy, said diminishing numbers of mature urban trees would have a "dramatic impact" on cities’ ability to cope with the effects of climate change:

“Our most precious green asset, mature trees, is being eroded before our very eyes.

“It will take new trees at least 50 years before they get to a size where they can deliver their temperature and flood buffering benefits that we will desperately need if the turbulent weather predictions are right.”

Despite the UK having some of the most robust tree preservation and planning laws in the world, planners are failing to give appropriate weight to protecting existing trees and planting new trees when granting consents, Barrell added.

Barrell also cited inflexible and entrenched attitudes of highway authorities as another major source of tree loss:

“It is a change in culture that is required, not new laws. 

“The most sustainable cities and communities all have a very strong sense of place, with inhabitants proud to belong and content with their surroundings.  It is an elusive mix but trees are definitely part of it.”


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