LTOA rejects Defra's "disproportionate" street tree protection plans

The London Tree Officers Association has opposed the bulk of Government proposals intended to safeguard urban street trees in its submission to the consultation process.

Image: HW
Image: HW

In its seven-page submission to Defra, the association said the proposed duty on local authorities to consult on the felling of street trees was "not necessary or desirable" and "a disproportionate response to the situation in Sheffield".

It explained: "Street trees have traditionally been protected by the tree officers who manage them, on behalf of their communities, for the benefit of all. Problems only seem to arise when the tree officer function is removed from a council and that protection is lost."

Such measures could actually increase the number of street trees removed, as under-pressure tree officers are diverted from their core responsibilities such as scrutinising development plans, it added, while the felling of potentially unsafe (though not immediately dangerous) trees could be held up by "potentially lengthy" consultations.

It suggested that a more general "tree removal policy" drafted by a local authority be consulted on with residents instead.

The LTOA also described the proposed scope and methodology of such consultations as "disproportionate and unworkable", while the more rigorous consultations proposed for trees of special historic or cultural significance it felt were unnecessary and possibly unworkable.

It also rejected the government's proposal to impose a duty on local authorities to report on tree felling and planting numbers, particularly if this were to include felled trees for which they were indirectly responsible through approved developments - suggesting instead that only street trees should be reported in this way.

And while cautiously backing the proposed guidance on council tree and woodland strategies, "tree officers should ideally lead its production", rather than "arboricultural consultants, landscape architects or other groups which have never actually had responsibility for managing an urban tree population", the LTOA said.

And it added: "A two-page policy can be more accessible and carry more weight with communities than a 75-page tree strategy."

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