April 19 2014 Latest news:
Monday, December 16, 2013
Norwich’s reputation as a leafy city is under threat due to council cuts.
That’s the warning from campaigners, residents and city councillors who have started a campaign to reinstate a tree planting budget cut two years ago.
They are concerned that while around 300 city trees are felled each year because they are old or diseased, the only place trees are being replanted is in certain conservation areas.
Green Party city councillor Amy Stammers said: “We have started a petition as many people are deeply concerned about the effects of this policy both on the tree stock, the city and its citizens.
“This is a short-sighted solution to budgetary pressures. We understand the need for the council to save money, but this approach to arboriculture in the city will cost a lot more in the long-term.
“We are asking for a reinstatement of a budget for replanting of trees outside of conservation areas, and we will ask the council to work with outside bodies to mitigate the ‘gap’ in tree planting.
“If trees have to be felled in areas such as Waterloo or Wensum parks, which are not in conservation areas, then they won’t be replanted because of the cuts.”
More than 100 people have already signed the petition and Ms Stammers said evidence showed that trees benefited a city’s economic and environmental health.
She added: “A recent study publicised by the BBC’s ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor’ TV show showed that houses protected from a busy road by silver birch trees had 50-60pc less pollution inside the house at the end of a two-week trial.”
The petition says: “City trees provide benefits in terms of biodiversity, well-being, health, carbon reduction, air quality, flooding risk, landscape, history, tourism and economics. Trees are a long-term natural asset and should be safe from the political cycle. At present the replanting budget has been slashed to nil.”
The petition calls on Norwich City Council to “find funding and/or reinstate a budget for planting so that the number of trees outside conservation areas is not reduced”.
Comments have been posted on the petition website by tree lovers in the city, including Jennifer Holland, who said: “Trees help us to breathe and combat the harsh effects of living in an urban environment - by looking so alive and beautiful. Please plant more.”
Meanwhile, city resident John Popely said: “Trees make Norwich a fine city.”
To keep Norwich a city rich in healthy trees, the Green party has suggested some positive ways forward.
These include setting up and developing tree warden networks through the UK charity, the Tree Council, which promotes the importance of trees.
Norwich City Council manages about 300,000 trees in the city.
In 2011 the administration cut the tree planting budget by £60,000, which left just £35,000 for planting trees in the city’s conservation areas only.
Council contributions to highway tree expenditure were also reduced by £65,000, despite the fact that the cuts consultation in that year highlighted that 50pc of respondents were opposed to cutting the tree budget.
In 2012 the Green Party put forward a budget amendment for £10,000 to be added to the existing budget, but this was rejected by the administration.
In 2012-2013, 298 trees - including 104 within a conservation area - were due to be felled in Norwich, largely due to disease, age and to ensure public safety.
Council inspections have identified 170 trees which need to be removed in the east of the city next year, none of which are in conservation areas. The budget is not due to be altered for the 2014-15 cycle.
City councillor Paul Kendrick, whose cabinet responsibilities include trees, said: “We understand that trees are a topic close to many of our residents’ hearts but, as we all know, cuts from central government have meant local authorities across the country having to review and reduce their budgets.
“In our public consultation on how residents preferred these savings to be made, half of those who took part were not opposed to the reduction in the tree planting budget.
“This element was, in fact, ‘suspended’ rather than cut completely so it has been identified for potential reinstatement, should the funds become available.
“Maintaining the city’s tree stocks is important to us, too, and we are constantly looking for other ways to fund tree planting, such as through planning contributions and highways schemes.”
Anyone proposing to cut down, uproot or prune any tree in a conservation area must give the city council six weeks’ written notice before carrying out any work. The council’s tree preservation officer will assess whether the proposed work can be carried out or whether a tree preservation order should be served.
The petition is at www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/norwich-city-council-reinstate-tree-planting-budgets
Do you agree with the Green party’s stance on tree planting? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email firstname.lastname@example.org