The Borough Council of Wellingborough, as a tree owner; has a direct responsibility to protect trees in Wellingborough. The council have released a draft tree policy to ensure that its trees do not pose a danger to the public or property; but I think that this has missed an opportunity to ensure that trees are maintained properly and not destroyed locally. The council is responsible for managing a significant number of trees within the borough of Wellingborough. The overall tree population is an estimated 76,000.
All decisions taken should bear in mind that trees are essential for people and our local environment. Here are some examples, taken from the tree policy, of the aesthetic, social, economic and health benefits of trees:
- Trees play a vital role in urban and rural ecosystems by helping to support a great variety of wildlife.
- Studies of patients in hospital found that they recovered more quickly with a view of trees and nature from their windows (Ulrich 1984). Two reports, sponsored by Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), published in 2004 and 2007 outlined the benefits to physical and mental health arising from contact with the natural environment. These included reductions in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stress, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), aggression and criminal activity, amongst others.
- A large beech tree can provide enough oxygen for the daily requirements of ten people.
- Property in tree lined streets is worth 18% more than in similar streets without trees.
- Trees intercept water, store some of it and reduce storm runoff and the possibility of flooding; a 5% increase in tree cover can reduce runoff by 2%.
- Trees help to lock up the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. For example, 1 hectare of woodland grown to maturity and looked after forever would absorb the carbon emissions of 100 average family cars driven for one year (climate care/trees for cities estimate).
- Trees have a positive impact on the incidence of asthma, skin cancer and stress related illness by filtering out polluted air, reducing smog formation, shading out solar radiation and by providing an attractive, calming setting for recreation.
- Trees can save up to 10% of energy consumption through their moderation of the local climate.
Wellingborough Norse maintains the trees on behalf of the council on highways (via a contract with the Northamptonshire County Council), parks, gardens, churchyards, industrial estates and housing amenity areas. Wellingborough Norse has removed many healthy trees in Wellingborough, and local residents have not had satisfactory explanations for this. The Borough Council needs to ensure that our trees are protected from further unjustified removals, and despite this welcomed tree policy, there needs to be a change of wording to make it clear that keeping trees is the first priority of the council. The ‘Tree Policy Statement’ includes some excellent points and background information, but it needs to put trees first.
I propose an amendment to the opening statement to include that the Borough Council of Wellingborough ‘have a direct responsibility to protect trees in Wellingborough.’ I would also want the Borough Council of Wellingborough to actually have direct responsibility for trees, by having a directly employed tree officer, who would be the person who would make decisions of tree removal and report back to councillors.
Get involved – Anyone who lives within the borough can give their feedback by emailing email@example.com or by writing to them by 5pm on Tuesday 20th June.