Further to last month’s blog about London Tree Week The Woodland Trust are backing a campaign to try and protect Britain’s urban trees. These have never been under greater threat as councils slash budgets and staff from departments tasked with caring for green spaces and street trees. In Sheffield the council have already felled more than 4,000 mature street trees and intend to fell another 2000.
It is very heartening to find that despite financial constraints London is celebrating its trees rather than destroying them as Take a Bough Tree Care found when we heard about The London Plan which provides a policy framework which encourages the protection and maintenance of existing trees as well as the planting of new trees and woodlands. Street trees soak up flood water, boost house prices, improve our quality of life and most importantly improve air quality. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, has said that poor air quality in London and its environs is “a matter of life and death” but tree cover can make a major and ongoing contribution to the impact of pollution.
The value of trees for cities like London
Urban trees thrive in the London Boroughs of Wandsworth, Lambeth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Merton and Kingston as well as the towns of Battersea, Clapham, Chelsea, Balham, Fulham, Putney, Earlsfield, Southfields, Wimbledon, Kingston, Stockwell, Roehampton and Streatham. Elmbridge Borough which includes Esher, Claygate and Surbiton are also areas where trees have been a long established and cherished part of life, however, either by design or consumed by development they have been politically sidelined by the second half of the 20th Century.
In a 2014 report, following what was described as the “largest city tree survey of its kind”, it was calculated that London’s trees provided “at least £133 million of benefits every year in terms of air pollution removal, carbon sequestration and reducing the amount of water going into drains”.
One charity that aims to promote the arboriculture additions to urban environments is UK-based Trees for Cities.
Describing its missions, the charity says: “We focus on planting trees where the social and environmental impact on local people is greatest.
“In London this might mean planting trees to clean the air and making our communities healthier places to live, whilst in Addis Ababa it’s planting fruit trees for food and sustainable livelihoods.”
By raising awareness of the ecosystem services they can play, the TNC report’s authors hope that urban trees can become an integral part of cityscapes once again.