Government tells council that trees' benefits to air quality are unproven

A West Midlands council said it has had a funding bid for a green infrastructure project rejected by the Government because of insufficient evidence for the health benefits from planting trees.

Ball Hill - image: Kevin Croucher (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Ball Hill - image: Kevin Croucher (CC BY-SA 2.0)

At a meeting with councillors last month, Coventry City Council's programme officer Karen Lees said the council submitted a funding bid for a project in the city's Ball Hill area in a bid to tackle high levels of air pollution, but this was rejected due to a lack of evidence for the benefit from trees, with Defra officials telling the council there was "mixed evidence" that they improve air quality.

Cabinet member for communities and housing Councillor Ed Ruane said: "The element of greening our city is because of the health benefits it brings, and now they are saying there is no evidence for that."

Councillors were told that while trees absorb some gases and particles, dense foliage can trap harmful emissions at ground level.

According to a report in Coventry Live, Defra's response to the council cited a report prepared for the Office for National Statistics by Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and published in July 2017, which found that while vegetation does absorb sulphur dioxide, it "has virtually no change in NO2 concentration".

Coventry is one of 28 UK towns and cities forecast to exceed legal NO2 limits in 2020.

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