Newcastle defends tree management after being named "UK's top feller"

Newcastle City Council has defended its tree policy after being named "Britain's most prolific city at tree felling" in a Sunday Times report which was picked up by other national newspapers this week.

Image: Dan Brady (CC BY 2.0)
Image: Dan Brady (CC BY 2.0)
A council representative said: "The Council takes the protection of its trees very seriously, and a tree will only be felled for good reason or necessity. This includes where a tree is dead, diseased or a danger to the public."

The figure of 8,414 trees felled over the past three years also includes trees which have self-seeded, or where plantations have been thinned out, he added.

The northeastern city, which has an in-house arboriculture service, is estimated to have around 800,000 trees, so this figure represents only 0.35% of the city’s stock, he pointed out. Of these, 830 were felled for private customers as part of a traded service operated by the council.

"When trees are removed, the council plants at least one more, typically following a 2:1 replanting programme, though this itself is often exceeded," the council representative said.

"The council has committed £100,000 for further tree planting in advance of the forthcoming tree strategy. The study will reinforce the importance of our tree population and its protection throughout Newcastle, as trees have a prominent function in our great green city."

At present, 7,000 of the city's trees have tree protection orders (TPO), while 718 group TPOs are in force.

And while three tree inspector posts were recently lost to deliver budget savings, "steps have been taken recently to increase capacity in the arboriculture service, with two additional horticultural officers recently employed whose main role is to undertake tree inspectionsm and three more arborists are being employed to undertake maintenance work," the council representative said.

He added: "We are investing in new technology to enable us to closely monitor our tree stock which will be invaluable for maintenance and replanting procedures. We have also bolstered the experience in our arboriculture and horticulture teams as we’ve commissioned a new tree survey to assess the city’s tree population."

Based on freedom of information requests, the Sunday Times put the number of trees felled by UK local authorities over the past three years at over 110,000. In Sheffield, where recent urban tree felling has been particularly controversial, the figure for the last three years is 3,529.

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