24 March 2015…..Local authorities seem to tolerate more than proudly display and cosset their street-planted trees. Mostly they reduce their appearance to that of a loo brush, regardless of species, biannually hacking crown growth back into that old-lady tight-perm look. Crazed black skeletons freaking-out-look in winter when foliage is gone. Unnaturally stiff angles where new growth springs from hacked-back ‘prunings’.
As for trees being brutally pollarded either by local authorities or on private land….this is an eco-crime, and, apparently, once done, must be continuously re-done every 10-15 years. Or so Di Morgan, in charge of arboriculture at Brighton & Hove City Council advised when trees on the northern-western edge of the Park House site were savaged during works to demolish and build the block of 71 flats for Hyde Housing.
Apparently, in the days of Hove Borough Council, street trees were root-pruned as they grew, to control growth and to retain pavement integrity. These days, if tree roots get across pavements so a wheelchair cannot pass on the flat, that tree may be felled, however good it is.
The tale of the Seven Dials Wheatley Elm on the Brighton border with Hove is now locally infamous. Hidden in agenda papers for the Seven Dials traffic island revamp and changes to pedestrian crossings there had been felling of the rare Wheatley elm… on these grounds; but it got spotted after agreement to the recommendations. The tree defence mounted was staggering as the tree was occupied and a massive campaign was mounted to get the decision on the tree reversed. And it was. And a celebratory thank-you gathering was held to mark the victory.
Where, however, is the Green Party defence and promotion of trees now?
The disvaluing of trees by Brighton & Hove City Council in its 2015/16 Budget (to save £80,000) is crystal-clear. No new street trees are to be planted and none of the 12,000 street trees will be replaced as each is felled or dies. And here is their reasoning and expectations:
At Holy Trinity Church on the corner of Goldstone Villas, Eaton Villas and Blatchington Road, there is tree loss planned in order that doctors wanting a money-making pharmacy can put one on-site by Goldstone Villas and also create new car parking. A massively beautiful fig tree whose dinner-plate sized leaves and fruits so graciously overhang and soften Goldstone Villas is one of them. A White Hornbeam with a TPO on it is another. In her consultation response to the application, council Arboriculturist Di Morgan feels it is OK to lose this tree but not others. But she accepts mature tree loss with sapling replacements. It is how EVERY planning application is dealt just so developers can wring every greedy penny out of sites.
At the end of this article there is a link to research showing how priceless a mature tree is. Essential carbon-capture tools. Essential. It is insane to fell even one. But there is no tree retention policy in any political manifesto. No tree retention policy recognising this at Government level. So stupid. STUPID!!! STUPID!!!!
Many dozens of thoughtless ‘letters’ of support with not one comment on them are in the case file all supporting the Holy Trinity application. Just names and addresses added to the online form on the council website with the ‘support’ option ticked before ‘send’ is pressed. Few show they know anything more than that their GP has applied to convert Holy Trinity into a GP practice. Button-pushing responses that entirely ignore what else is in the application besides a new GP surgery. The proposed pharmacy in place of that fig tree (and others, plus the Grade 2 listed flint wall) threatens the continued presence of Boots in George Street which if it goes, threatens the rest of the retailers there because it is an anchor store. Meanwhile a purpose-built doctors’ surgery in Portland Road on the site of the Gala Bingo Hall is empty and advertising for doctors to take it. And the Coptic Christian Church is seeking a second church to expand into. But I digress.
Everyone knows that trees mop up air pollution and give back oxygen, provide housing for nesting birds and shade from hot summer sun. But few will know that the older they get, the faster they grow and that their carbon capture abilities increase at an ever faster rate as they age. They are an essential tool which is not being fully appreciated or utilised as this country seeks ways to reduce its carbon footprint to meet is obligations on the climate change front. Every mature tree casually chopped down, puts a little brake on this work. Fact is, every single mature tree in this country should be given maximum protected status and every street should be rapidly planted up as a bulwark against the needs of people being born today, for when they grow up.