A Tree in the right place

By Sarah Green

A full version of an article which appeared in the Spring 2021 Review in an edited form.

This lovely photograph of a once tree lined St Andrews Street North reminds us of how many streets were enhanced by trees making a distinctive and softening green aspect to the views and spaces in our town. Avenues of trees and their planting often welcome those arriving to a town or city.

Sadly, over the years, and with the different and increasing amount of traffic, we have lost so many trees to the street scene together with the pressure of competing spaces for parking and development where often new builds demands spaces closer to the highway. The opportunities for tree planting can be limited but not insurmountable. New ideas are coming forward.

Over this past year, everyone has appreciated our natural environment even more, and how protecting our green spaces and previous biodiversity is so important for our health and quality of life and tackling Climate change.

Reducing CO2 emissions is a key major objective of government and very many organisations are coming forward with policies and proposals of which one reads about nearly every day including The Climate Change Committee and recently The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, RSPB, The Woodland Trust to name but a few. The benefits of trees are widely known and the government has set out policies for planting 11 million trees by 2030 creating more woodland and re foresting.

There are concerns, however, that planting trees in the wrong soil can be counter productive to the aims of carbon reduction. Planting trees in the right place for the most benefit advocates the importance of using native species which are sourced in the UK.

In the urban landscape, the value of tree planting can not only make areas more beautiful but also make a most important  contribution to bio diversity. Providing shelter from wind and giving shade is often provided by the large and mature trees but there are more constraints to consider, especially in towns with narrow streets and negotiating all the services.

 The West Suffolk Council Tree Management Policy provides interesting and useful information in their responsibilities for maintaining, enhancing and protecting the trees and woodland across West Suffolk. Parks and open spaces together with residential areas all included.  https://www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/environmental-services/treeandgroundsmaintenance.cfm#treemanagmentpolicy

New developments are strictly guided by Core policies contained in the Government National Development Framework.  Tree planting in relation to developments in West Suffolk would be guided by the policies in the Joint Development Management Policies Document with the Policy DM13 relating to landscape features.  My thanks to Jaki Fisher, Senior Ecology and Landscape Officer at the West Suffolk Council for this information.

The Suffolk Climate Change Partnership set up by Suffolk County Council in 2020 is working together with other local authorities and Environment Agency on projects to plant 10,000 trees and thus increase bio diversity by also planting 15 kilometres of hedgerow in the next 12 months. This will create new habitat and wildlife. Partners include landowners, tennants, local communities, contractors, tree wardens and the Woodland Trust working together towards the aspiration of making the county of Suffolk Carbon Neutral by 2030.

The innitiatives being put forward by the Forum are ambitious especially in the time frame.

 The Government’s “ A Green Future – 25year Environment Plan,” is in line to increasing woodland in England with the aspiration of 12% cover by 2060, this would involve planting 180,000 hectares by 2042!  The Woodland Trust aims to plant 50 million trees in the ground over the next 5 years to help the UK meet the carbon net zero target.

Celebrating National Tree Week, £3.9 million was given in December 2020 to drive innovative tree planting in towns and cities to regenerate urban areas as well as near rivers to reduce flood risk.

Here, in Bury St Edmunds, we have the wonderful oasis of the Abbey Gardens and glorious trees together with the precious green spaces nearby that have provided such a focus for our health and daily exercise over these many ‘lockdown’ days and which so many have appreciated.  In the areas of the Crankles, along the Lark river bank, and in parts of No Mans, 40 European White Elms (Ulmus Laevis)were planted by a work party from the Bury Waters Meadow Group in conjunction with a council project.

These trees, more resistant to Dutch Elm disease are establishing well and will tolerate flooding phases. Cricket Bat Willows on the Crankles were replaced with native Alder trees a few years ago, together with fruit trees to attract pollinators, increase bio diversity and improve habitat.

In 2009, The Bury Society, through the Alison Rae Bequest which has funded so many other projects in the town, provided a further 24 Hornbeam trees to the origianl scheme of only 14 on the Cattle Market (Arc) car park which certainly improved what would have been a very barren and bleak area.  There can be opportunities to make public realm improvements to street enviroments with trees and soft landscaping and it is ever more important. Groups, communities, organisations working together are making a difference.

Trees can be planted for so many reasons, marking occasions, anniversaries, and memorials.   It has now been put forward recently by the National Trust that there will be circles of flowering cherries established over the next five years throughout our cities to celebrate the beauty of spring year after year and giving communities more access to nature, giving ‘space for hope and reflection’ after the pandemic.

What better way to leave a lasting legacy for future generations than to create more beautiful and sustainable green spaces, and taking opportunities to enhance our streets with trees whenever possible to the benefit of us all.

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