The Woodland Trust is incredibly saddened by the felling of these valuable mature trees and their loss to the people of Wellingborough.
Over the past weeks we have made attempts to engage with the Council Leader and Chief Executive of North Northamptonshire Council, and will continue to do so. Unfortunately as the Woodland Trust is a non-statutory consultee we are limited in how we can intervene in direct cases. However, we recognise and are working hard to seek protections that will prevent the loss of highly valued trees like the Wellingborough Walk lime trees in future, including addressing the deficiencies in Tree Protection Orders. Our Chair, Baroness Young, recently put forward a series of amendments to the government’s Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in the House of Lords to strengthen and improve how Tree Preservation Orders work. The objectives of the amendments are to:
- Embed existing good practice – eg in adopting a wider definition of ‘amenity’ and a proactive approach to protecting important trees.
- Enable TPOs to be used to protect the deadwood habitat of ancient and veteran trees, as this is super valuable for nature.
- To ensure TPO protection cannot be removed without good reason (uplift guidance into legislation)
- Support enforcement – by creating a single offence and hopefully removing the burden to prove harm will be fully destructive to access larger fines commensurate with potential profits
In the meantime, pressure and awareness raising from local residents is crucial to making decision makers aware of the strength of feeling and value of trees such as those in Wellingborough and will support our lobbying work – the strength of feeing for the protection of mature urban trees, as you have noted, is gaining widespread attention.
Sadly many local authorities lack appropriate resource and tree expertise, such as a dedicated tree officer, and this is something that we’d like to see urgently addressed, to ensure an expert voice for trees is embedded throughout decision making processes. We encourage residents to ask that their authority develop a Trees and Woodland Strategy to ensure trees are appropriately valued for the benefits they bring – and given the resources they deserve as a vital asset. There is more information available on this here: A Trees and Woodland Strategy Toolkit for Local Authorities (treecouncil.org.uk).
You may find the information from Trees for Streets helpful – they site research and evidence of the value of trees on consumer spending and health and wellbeing – Street Trees are worth their weight in gold – Trees for Streets
There are also many helpful resources on the Trees and Design Action Group website – Trees and Design Action Group – Home (tdag.org.uk) as well as the Arboricultural Association which has held webinars on the value of urban trees. These can be viewed here – Arboricultural Association – Webinars (trees.org.uk)
Thank you for suggesting an article in our next magazine, we will raise this with our Broadleaf team. We have written previously about the situation in Sheffield, and the need for lessons to be learnt across the UK.
We are sorry to hear of the anxiety you’ve been experiencing, we know that this is an experience of communities across the UK experiencing the loss of their valued trees. I would like to assure you that we will continue to fight for mature trees through our work to create change for a future where trees are truly valued.
With kind regards.
On behalf of the Campaigns Team