Friday, 1 May 2009
Tree revamp decision
JGA vice chairman Martin Thompson attended and spoke at the West Central Area Committee on Thursday night at the Grad Pad, whree councillors were voting on an allocation of money for tree planting, transplanting and some felling on the Green.
As it was not explained before the meeting that councillors would not been discussing the Tree Officer's proposals in detail, Martin prepared a statement on a JGA position which was read out. (However, I think it was useful to have our say as this is the first point of community consultation)
The upshot of the meeting was that £25,000 is to be made available over two years for tree planting/transplanting/felling work on Jesus Green and Midsummer Common and that once the council's new Tree Protocol (covering felling procedures) is made public in July, there is to be 'extensive public consultation' on the Tree Officer's proposals
Martin's statement was so good the JGA are keen on adopting this as our official position. He remarked there was a strong emphasis on 'structural planting' for the next 150 years which many of us will feel is too overblown and interventionist, and does not allow current generations to enjoy the trees adequately - instead future use.
Here it is:
Tree planting proposals for Jesus Green
Submission from Martin Thompson Vice Chair Jesus Green Association to West Central Area Committee.
‘Proposals for further discussion’ is what we hope and expect these to be. The guiding principle should be yes to careful consideration to renewing landscape for the long term but also any changes must serve the needs of the current generation and upcoming generations who should not be deprived of the chance to continue to enjoy healthy trees that have many years of life in them.
There is a major school of thought that says that there is no harm (and indeed some merit) in trees not being in straight lines with scattered planting. It seems to come down a matter of taste – formal vistas versus copses or drifts of trees- and to a certain extent, the fashion of the day can prevail, yet imposed aesthetic strategies have a habit of becoming rapidly out of date.
In the 18th century, Capability Brown was politely rebuffed when he came up with plans to turn the Backs into formal parkland and we must be grateful he was sent packing with a silver plate for his efforts.
Many of us must take an equally sceptical view of the current proposals.
All the proposals and the following key features of the Green in particular need very careful scrutiny and public input before any irrevocable decisions are made.
(As it was clear that councillors were not going to discuss the proposals in detail, I omitted the following points 1-3 but they may be useful to make later in the process.)
1. The Plane tree avenue
Much of the threat to these trees comes from poor drainage of the green, compaction of the roots by council and heavy vehicles servicing events.
We call upon Members to ensure that officers take the necessary steps to ensure that money is found to improve the drainage of the eastern field and also that vehicles beyond a certain weight or size are prohibited from this sensitive area where they have caused so much damage. Movements must be properly policed.
We would ask for an assurance that none of the existing trees will be felled unless they become a danger.
2. The Victoria Avenue chestnuts
Recent disease has shown these to be vulnerable in the long-term.
However, they may well shake off the symptoms and have many years of life left in them. It is right to start succession planting but the suggestion for a line of cherries/limes seems out of keeping.
Why not replant with Chestnut?
This is a reversal of the current action of planting new Chestnuts in the avenue in gaps, which is likely to win popular approval.
3 The cherry tree avenue running from Jesus Lock to Portugal Street
The necessity to fell any healthy trees should be challenged. The planting of the 25 new trees appears to be a prelude to the removal of the current avenue. The question is - How long does the current avenue have left. If it has another 20 years, why fell it now?
We would oppose any plans to fell the Green’s young and thriving oak tree.
We would endorse the quote contained in the report:
‘It is considered unacceptable to fell a healthy tree with a long life expectation unless the community and members recommend that it should be removed…..
However an expression that give rise to concern is – ‘renew as required.’
Who is to take that decision?
No mention is made in these proposals of new planting that is needed along the Green side border of the pool. The leylandii bordering the pool should be reduced in height. This was to be part of the failed HLF bid.
Whilst recognising that managing the city’s trees is not an easy task for an under-resourced department and that public liability insurance is becoming more demanding, we call for far greater public scrutiny before any tree of significant proportion is felled.
Simply because a tree is not aligned or is of a different species to its neighbours should not be the justification for felling it.
I am told that felling can become the option of first resort as it is cheaper than having to maintain a tree that may have certain problems over a long period. This cannot surely be right.
Much emphasis is put on the notion of transplanting existing trees to give a more coherent feel. I would like to know what the success rate is likely to be and whether simply adding more trees to the planting list is more realistic (and may even be cheaper).
The proposal is to transplant three 20 year old beeches along Park Parade and two beautiful copper beeches and one other. Why replace them with trees similar to the others in a row just to get uniformity and the benefit of slightly smaller crowns in 100 years time?
We welcome in principle the introduction of a Tree Protocol but will have to reserve judgement until its details are made available and it is seen to be working effectively.
We would advocate clear descriptions of the council’s tree felling (and planting) proposals on the council website with space for comments. There is a lack of clarity on how and when decisions relating to these tree plans will be made.
We would also endorse the need to establish a separate ring-fenced tree planting budget and urge members to press for this.