Loss of the urban treescape throughout Britain

Jan 15 08:20 2009 Simon Sales Print This Article

One constant concern I have had for a number of years, and the reason for this article, has been the gradual loss of the urban treescape throughout Britain, especially in London.

To define urban treescape,Guest Posting I mean the collective term for all the public and privately owned trees that sit amongst the built environment. I am talking particularly about trees that grow above and beyond the roofline.  The urban landscape has always been a passion of mine because it forms the backdrop of a town or city, setting the tone and atmosphere around it. The treescape is a crucial element of that landscape and essential to any city. It is as important as the architecture, theatres and museums and it needs to be valued, protected and enhanced.

Part of the problem is that significant trees are valued by everyone except those that live close to them or wish to develop land around them. To those that live close to the big trees they are now considered to be a threat instead of an asset. The litigious society that we all now inhabit has changed the perception of trees in the eyes of the general public, local authorities, highway departments, statutory undertakers etc. This pressure has created an unfounded fear of trees by claiming “they are dangerous” “they undermine houses” “someone will sue me” etc. House owners have become neurotic, Building Control officers have become paranoid and insurance companies have a vested interest in removing trees. The changing attitude has resulted in a decline in the number of large mature trees and what appears to be an embargo on the planting of any trees that might achieve any real stature. Even highway departments now only plant small garden trees that do not have the potential to influence the environment beyond the road they are planted in.

Individual authorities do their best to protect existing trees that are perceived to be at threat with planning legislation e.g. tree preservation orders and conservation area legislation. But the pressure on trees grows all the time and the time is running out. Something needs to be done to protect the key trees in London whilst we still have them, to replant new stock for the future and to change the public’s perception of trees.

The benefits of trees in cities are many: they “humanise” the built environment by giving scale to buildings, they reduce particulate and gaseous pollution, absorb co2, reduce wind speed, support wildlife and make us feel good. It is no coincidence that the most sought after residential properties are in tree lined avenues or surrounding garden squares.

The problem, as I see it, is that no-one has overall control over London’s treescape. I believe there is an urgent requirement for the employment of a person (or committee) who act as the “Guardian[s] of London’s Treescape”. This person or committee would have two main duties;

1.     To comment on all Council tree work applications to prune or fell trees above a certain height - say, 10m. The guardian would have the power to over-rule the Council’s decision if it is for the greater good of the landscape. Only in situations where the tree is deemed (by an independent expert) to be dead, dying or dangerous would consent be granted for pruning or removal. Otherwise, the assumption would always be in favour of retaining the tree for the greater good of London. This procedure should also apply to tree works carried out by statutory undertakers and Local Authorities.

2.     The “guardian” would have a budget set aside to identify sites for the planting of “significant landscape trees” and “groups of significant landscape trees”. They could then take suggestions from the public, schools, local interest groups and anyone else about street corners, schools, and parks etc that could support and benefit from a substantial tree. These can then be planted, denoted as significant London trees, automatically protected and benefit society for the next couple of centuries. 

Overall, people need to be re-educated to love trees and not be scared of them. We all need to value our urban trees and take pride in them and treat them as an asset in our environment. We also need to act now to preserve what is left of the urban treescape and without delay; we need to replenish lost trees stocks with trees that have the potential to make a really significant impact upon future generations.

To achieve this, the financial impact would be minimal but the net benefit to Londoners and visitors would be immeasurable, not only now but for generations to come. The costs would be for the employment of the Guardian (or committee) to oversee expenditure, the employment, either directly or indirectly, of a small team to carry out the works and the costs of the purchase of trees and associated material. Beyond that there would need to be a budget set aside for publicising the work and for the key element of education. This is a low cost, high benefit initiative that can only have a positive impact upon our city.

In conclusion, what greater legacy could we provide for the future than by securing London’s tree stocks for future generations and by initiating a rolling program of planting significant landscape trees that will be appreciated for decades, if not centuries, to come?

Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

About Article Author

Simon Sales
Simon Sales

I own two small businesses; a garden irrigation & garden lighting contracting business based in Brentford and a wholesale business based in Gloucestershire that sells water irrigation product and garden lights. I have been involved in the horticultural industry all my working life, in one guise or another, previously working for a number of years as an Arboriculturist, protecting trees from developers and overzealous home owners. I now work alongside property developers, garden designers and architects in private London properties, designing and installing garden irrigation and garden lighting systems.

View More Articles