Street tree study sounds funding alarm

London Assembly report warns that council planting and maintenance efficiencies threaten the capital's tree campaigns.

Schemes help to maintain London's street tree population - image: GLA
Schemes help to maintain London's street tree population - image: GLA

Funding issues are creating an uncertain future for London's street trees, a new report has warned.

Branching Out, published by London Assembly's environment committee, claimed although tree numbers had remained steady since its report in 2007 their future was threatened by local authority funding pressures.

The report found "excessive, extreme pruning" continued to be an issue. It warned that cuts could encourage the practice in the future, which along with reduced planting would decrease the environmental and aesthetic value of the city's trees.

Other issues highlighted included the slow implementation by councils of new protocols designed to avoid unnecessary felling of trees. Additionally, London mayor Boris Johnson's £4m Street Tree campaign, which will introduce 10,000 trees to priority areas across the capital is due to end next year and the follow-up campaign Re:Leaf will only provide small community grants.

London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) chair David Lofthouse questioned the extent of some threats but warned of the impact of efficiencies. "We are not convinced that excessive pruning is as common as the report suggests but when funds are very limited councils have to manage more severely at greater intervals rather than a little but often approach."

Lofthouse also agreed with the report's call for councils to publicise their data so changes could be monitored. Data was a vital tool in meeting climate change, green infrastructure and sustainability goals, he said. "If you don't have data on where you are now how can you get where you want to be in 2050?"

BRANCHING OUT MAYORAL ACTION POINTS

- Publish Re:Leaf funding and goals details within six months.

- Promote business community contributions to tree-planting projects.

- With LTOA, encourage boroughs to protect street trees.

- Encourage boroughs to value tree stocks within next year to set benchmark spending levels.

- Publish list of all trees planted in street tree programme.

- Encourage boroughs to supply tree data by April 2012.


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