Tree planting, felling and benefits to society, with Trees for Cities' Kate Sheldon

Trees for Cities is a charity that helps facilitate tree planting in urban contexts but as recently-appointed chief executive , Kate Sheldon explains, the benefits are wide-ranging and sometimes surprising:

"Some of the biggest risks in cities [are] around heat and flooding and I believe that as an urban tree planting charity we can have more impact in planting for those risks and for the social value of what we do, rather than the carbon". 

She explains how the charity helps local communities, schools and parks plant trees in their area and the care taken to ensure the right tree is planted in the right place as well as considering the maintenance and longevity of the trees.

"We tend to plant where there is less than 20% tree canopy cover...but we also look for places where people might be facing barriers to engaging with nature."

She talks about their campaign "Trees Breathe New Life" - launched on the 'Forgotten Places' project which targeted places with few trees and which face socio-economic difficulties and where trees are seen as a "nice to have". It provides training for people to "open people's eyes to the opportunities" in the green sector, help with people's mental health and also help address issues such as climate change and how "trees can be part of the solution". In this way, Kate says Trees for Cities can be part of addressing the skills shortage by inspiring young people into the industry through their tree planting experiences.

On the controversial topic of street tree felling (famously in Sheffield and more recently, Plymouth) Kate says: "I am appalled...there are very few design schemes that can't be worked around existing trees...I don't think you can use that as an excuse for felling so many mature trees."

She talks about Government tree planting targets and challenges sourcing suitable, and healthy trees.

And she touches on trees' contribution to efforts to improve biodiversity and talks about plans for the future: "the real area we can have the most impact is around engaging communities" and a new community engagement strategy will be her focus, recruiting new leaders at the charity and security funding, ideally through new major donors, patrons and ambassadors.

Having planted more than 1.5 million trees, the charity says there are many more opportunities for planting more, though the familiar barriers of planning, avoiding street services and money still persist.

"[Local authorities] don't always have the capacity to be managing the trees they've currently got, let alone planting new trees, so sometimes that can lead to some cultural or capacity barriers to planting....but where there's a will, there's a way!".

Presenter: HortWeek senior reporter Rachael Forsyth

Producer: HortWeek digital content manager Christina Taylor

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