Government report to call for tree officer for every local authority

New document could help save country's threatened street trees by acting as a focus.

Urban trees are at risk from funding cuts and legal threats, as well as a lack of data and integrated management, the Trees in Towns II survey is set to reveal. The survey, due to be released in late summer, is being undertaken for the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) by ADAS and Myerscough College. Arboriculture research fellow and lead researcher at Myerscough Dr Mark Johnston said the report would be a “quantum leap” for local authorities and that it would recommend that each should appoint a dedicated tree officer. Johnston added: “Trees in Towns II shows there is enormous variation in the standards of tree management among local authorities. In the past, no one was aware of what other local authorities were doing. Now, tree officers can see the national average and go to parks managers and say, ‘We should at least be performing to the national average’.” The long-awaited document could help save Britain’s threatened street trees by acting as a focus. But more needs to be done, according to Oldham parks manager Steve Smith. Smith, the representative for the Institute for Sport, Parks & Leisure on the CABE Space steering group, said councils needed more powers and resources to fine and police utility companies that dig up tree roots. He added that more needed to be done to raise awareness within council engineering departments “because they are ignorant about guidelines” and “more interested in doing the job fastest or cheapest”. He added that tree budgets in Oldham had halved since the 1990s to £2.20 per person a year. Smith said that because responsibilities for council trees are split between school governing bodies and housing estates run by arms-length management, spend is decreasing and council arborists are being ignored. He added that there is also a reluctance by council legal departments to fight complaints about subsidence. The ADAS/Myerscough research team has produced a series of 12 draft case studies looking at “good and innovative practice” in aspects of urban tree management, including tree forums, green waste, strategies, management, funding, regeneration, risk and budgets. Each study focuses on one or two English local authorities that are excellent examples of this. A representative for the DCLG said: “The results of the research will help shape central and local government policy on urban trees and woodlands in England for years to come.”

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