Make maintenance of trees obligatory, conference told

Managing trees should be a statutory obligation on local councils, Barcham Trees sales director Keith Sacre told the Trees - The Key to Climate-Proofing Our Cities conference - held by Treework Environmental Practice (TEP) at the Royal Geographical Society, London, on 10 July.

"Tree officers will openly say that tree maintenance is inadequate," he said. "Most local authorities have a two- to three-year maintenance schedule. After that, they drop off the map. There are no nationally agreed guidelines on tree maintenance. Why is this, given the enormous resources being put into planting young trees?"

Being a big supplier to London boroughs gave Barcham Trees an insight into current tree planting in the capital, he said. And he warned that current tree planting will fail to ameliorate future temperature rises in towns and cities.

"Five genera of smaller trees, mainly Prunus and Sorbus, accounted for 40 per cent of planting," he said - whereas larger "shade trees" accounted for less than a quarter.

"We are planting few major trees, and more 'lollipops', so the canopy cover is going down," he said. "Tree planting is often seen as an inconvenience among other site work."

He also criticised the lack of research into the suitability of varieties for urban conditions. "We are planting trees in what is for them a completely alien environment, yet where is the research into breeding trees for urban conditions?" he said. "The trees that will be around us in 2050 are on our nursery now. Is the nursery being used to its best capacity?"

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