City residents' group backs proposed new street tree felling rules

Bristol Tree Forum said it supports the government's plans to place a duty on local authorities to consult with residents before felling street trees, and has urged the scope be widened to other urban trees.

Image: Adrian Scottow (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Adrian Scottow (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The forum said in its submission to Defra's current consultation that local authorities should have a duty to consult on the felling of street trees, adding: "There are often alternatives to felling which should be considered, especially given how difficult it is to re-create canopy once it has been lost.

"The key is to consider street trees as capital assets. Thus, the cost of their replacement should be included in any management programme."

It argued that the proposed scope of the duty is too narrow, and that "giving just street trees special protection without also protecting the wider urban forest ... will result in the fragmentation of policies affecting the way the urban forest and its contribution to green infrastructure is managed".

It also disagreed with the government's favoured method of consultation, arguing that notices infoming of planned fellings should also be published online - indeed, that local authorities' tree management systems should do this automatically.

"In this way, those with a wider interest in the protection of street trees, such as Bristol Tree Forum and other community groups, will have an opportunity to engage in the process and offer comments and insights which those living locally ... might not necessarily be aware of," it said.

It agreed that trees of special historic or cultural significance are subject to a more rigorous consultation process, arguing that this should be extended to ancient and veteran trees - registers of which local authorities would need to set up.

Councils should also openly report on and map their entire tree stock, it said, citing Bristol City Council's own publicly accessible dataset as "a model of how local authorities can gather and hold information about their tree stocks".

The Government should assist in this by setting best practice and devising a standard data framework, it added.

Its response to the consultation stands in marked contrast to that of the London Tree Officers' Association, which earlier called the proposed measures "disproportionate".

The consultation was launched in late December 2018 and closes for submissions at the end of February 2019.

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