Police cite increased crime risk in bid to thwart tree-planting plan

Kent police claim tree planting in estates increases the potential of crime but landscapers criticise this attitude.

A police force has been criticised for arguing that tree planting increases the potential for crime. Kent Police challenged the need for trees on an outline planning application to overhaul a problem area of Gravesend in Kent. The Moat Housing Association development at Christian Fields is phase one of a four-part scheme, which includes demolishing and rebuilding houses. Kent Police has told Gravesham council it “firmly believes” problems with crime are significantly more important than landscaping. The force said trees would “do little to enhance public safety or reduce the potential for crime”, and “sensitive locations, such as play areas and parking”, would be better open to “natural surveillance”. PRP Architects, which designed the tree-lined streets, said it was surprised at the reaction. Associate Manisha Patel said: “A lot of streetscapes need an integrated approach. Otherwise, they would be barren. The trees chosen would have foliage only at the top.” Senior contracts manager Neil Huck of Essex-based landscape firm Ground Control said: “If people had a reasonable environment to live in — a green environment — that would reduce the risk of problems.” Huck, whose firm is contracted to landscape Tesco car parks, said he could only understand the point of stopping trees if they were blocking the view of CCTV cameras. Landscape architect Tom La Dell said: “If you say we should not have trees because it will lead to crime, then why is there less crime in nicer environments? He added: “I know nothing of this case but in my experience, a dialogue between the interested parties will usually find a resolution.” A council representative said the police’s comments were “unusual”, but would be resolved in talks at the detailed planning stage.

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