Local authority tree officers are creating a “lollipop landscape” because they are scared of expensive lawsuits.
A £300,000 research project for the ODPM into Britain’s urban trees has found local authority tree officers’ highest priority in selecting trees is their “ultimate size” because they are worried about the risk of court action over subsidence and accidents.
“Do we want a landscape of lollipop trees?” asked Dr Mark Johnston, who conducted the Trees in Towns II research with ADAS.
Barcham Trees sales director Keith Sacre said trees such as Amelanchier are growing in popularity and “there is undoubtedly more interest in sculptured trees from grafted stock”.
Deepdale Trees managing director Matthias Anton said he has found that councils are choosing bigger trees to avoid vandalism.
Johnston told delegates at a Trees for Cities conference last week it was “disturbing” that councils had not surveyed 30 per cent of highway trees in the past five years. He added that it was “encouraging” that councils with tree strategies in place had risen from 55 per cent in 1997 to 64 per cent in 2004.
Systemic inspection was a “sensitive issue”, with a third of councils not responding to the question.
Two-thirds said tree work for community safety was important.
* Councils’ average tree budget, 1997: £286,150 (adjusted for inflation). 2004: £271,380.
* Spending on trees per head, 1997 average: £1.41, range 24p to £4.81. 2004 average: £1.38, range 8p to £4.93.
* Major threats: 1 funding; 2 development; 3 insurance claims; 4 lack of political support; 5 poor public support.
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