Trees and Design Action Group seminar highlights importance of tree strategies

Barcham Trees' Cambridgeshire nursery recently played host to a one-day seminar organised by the Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) on its newly published 84-page 'Trees in the Townscape: A Guide for Decision Makers'.

Independent consultant  Ian Phillips told delegates his three principles were to know your tree reserve, to have a comprehensive tree strategy and to embed trees into policy and plans. The target audience should be decision makers, including tree owners and managers, land owners and managers, policy makers, regulators, investors, technical advisors and influencers.

The starting point should be a survey of trees. This could include a whole area or a sample, a ground level visit or the use of aerial photographs, looking at canopy coverage, the broad leaf tree population classification by area, and a detailed and specialist assessment of tree characteristics.  

The objectives of such a survey should be to establish an inventory, quantify the benefits of trees, to assess associated risks, to plan and secure maintenance resources, to identify areas of under-provision and to target areas of need or opportunity.  Results then need to be mapped, data trends analysed and common factors and disparities highlighted. 

He went on to stress the importance of a tree strategy, within which the multiple  benefits of urban trees need to be recognised and promoted.  Again he called for a correlation with other natural system strategies. Trees need to be seen as a resource – an essential element of an ecosystem vital for human habitats, reducing urban heat islands, encouraging biodiversity and enhancing the quality of life and property values, besides yielding timber and produce.

He believes the key elements of a successful tree strategy are leadership from local authorities with executive sponsorship, input from various cross-disciplinary interests, the inclusion of private and estate trees, bearing in mind that 70 per cent of urban trees are on private land, allied to local relevance and applicability. 

Rupert Bentley Walls gave a talk on street trees in Hackney, where he is an arboricultural officer with Streetscene, which maintains 9,500 street trees for the borough, which has 62 open space and park sites across 330 hectares.  He revealed that the current budget for highway trees is £165,000 compared with £305,000 in 2008/9.

The Hackney’s Mayor's street tree planting programme has been a great success, he told delegates. The objective to plant 1,000 new trees by 2010 was completed a year ahead of schedule.  While reminding delegates that Hackney had planted 3,500 new trees since 2005, he also pointed out that of the 998 roads and streets in the borough more than half do not have a single street tree.  

Hackney can now boast 500 ‘tree champions’ and more than 2,000 ‘tree carers’, and the Mayor is aiming to have a further 1,000 trees in the ground by 2014.  Hackney is also trying to get local communities to come together in a street tree planting programme.  So far more than 180 species of tree have been planted, all appropriate to their setting. 

Bentley Walls said he has found that the greater the level of resident participation in tree aftercare, the greater the level of establishment.

Also speaking at the event was Russell Horsey, the new deputy director of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, and Barcham’s Keith Sacre.

Copies of ‘Trees in the Townscape’ are available free of charge from Keith Sacre of Barcham Trees.  To request a copy, please e-mail

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