Birmingham aims for international Tree City status to raise green profile

Talks to establish Birmingham as the UK's first internationally recognised "Tree City" have begun, with backers claiming the designation would boost visitor numbers to the city.

Image: Simon Felton (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image: Simon Felton (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The bid is being formally launched to coincide with the city's Love Parks Week (12-21 July), with council officers and cabinet members meeting a delegation from the US-based Arbor Day Foundation which oversees the Tree Cities of the World Network.

The designation was launched at the World Forum on Urban Forests in Italy last November. The council says achieving the status would help further develop the city’s urban forestry programme.

To achieve it, a city must meet five standards:

  • It must delegate overall responsibility for the care of trees to a Tree Board;
  • It must have a policy governing management of forests and trees, seeting standards for tree care and penalties for noncompliance;
  • It must have an up-to-date inventory or assessment of tree resources to inform a long-term plan for planting, care, and removal of trees;
  • It must have a dedicated annual budget to implement its tree management plan;
  • It must hold an annual celebration of trees to raise awareness among residents and to acknowledge citizens and staff who carry out the city tree programme.

Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks, said: "Becoming a world Tree City would raise our green profile and hopefully attract many more visitors to our great city, to see what we have to offer."

He added: "Following the review of our tree policies in early 2018, linked to a developing tree and woodland strategy, we feel we meet the required standards and are confident that the status is within our reach."

Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, added: "Poor air quality contributes up to 900 premature deaths per year in Birmingham. There are many things that can help ensure clean air but they are all part of a bigger picture.

"Our trees, along with our parks and open spaces, are the city’s natural lungs and play a major role in this effort. The formal status as a Tree City would underline the important role they play in the public health of Birmingham."

The council says it hopes a final decision on Tree City status could be made later this year.

Birmingham has an average of 18.6% canopy coverage, well ahead of the nationwide average of 13%, but this varies significantly across the city, with some wards having over 30% tree cover, others as low as 5%.

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