Expert laments housing associations' tree management

Housing associations own more homes in the UK than are owned by local authorities but tree management in the sector is often rudimentary, Barton Tree Consultancy director Paul Barton told the ICF conference.

He said: "The policy guidance is focused on the homes themselves, with quite high standards to meet, but the space around them is often ill-planned, dysfunctional and uninviting."

Responding to concern about the lack of formal tree management in particular, the consultancy surveyed the sector. It found that:

- Some 57 per cent of housing associations have no formally qualified staff to manage trees, while in 10 per cent no one takes responsibility for trees.

- Only six per cent have a staff member with a level 3 or higher arboricultural qualification.

- Some 59 per cent have a tree inventory.

- Some 72 per cent have a tree maintenance budget, averaging £72,000 a year, but only five per cent draw on this to plant trees.

In response, Barton recommended that all housing associations should:

- Have at least one staff member who holds a relevant qualification.

- Have a geographic information system-based tree inventory.

- Develop a tree strategy in consultation with local residents.

Having put these points to a recent housing association conference, Barton said: "They were quite receptive, but I probably wasn't telling them anything that they didn't already know."

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