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A once-in-a-generation opportunity to influence tree strategy

The government has published a consultation seeking views to inform an upcoming England Tree Strategy. This consultation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set out real, lasting commitments to England’s trees and hedgerows, across all our urban and rural landscapes. The consultation, leading into the new England Tree Strategy, is an important part of helping to shape a green, tree-filled future.

The Tree Council welcomes the consultation and the efforts that have been made to publish it in good time for everyone to have time to contribute.
We want a strategy that pushes even further and faster, providing funds to establish and protect trees across the widest spectrum of our urban and rural landscapes, and thinks of trees as assets, not liabilities. There should be input from a broad range of government departments (including Health, Education, Transport, Culture and Tourism) in order to recognise the many, diverse benefits trees offer humans, nature and the climate.

At present, our chief concern is to ensure that sufficient attention and funding goes into environments beyond large-scale forests and managed woodlands. This includes hedgerows, street trees, community orchards, wood pasture, parkland and the landscapes which house our precious ancient trees. A key component of achieving this will be to resource local authorities properly to create local strategies with clear local targets, recruit sufficient numbers of qualified tree officers, and establish and care for trees and hedgerows.

The eventual strategy should include a raft of intelligent statutory targets for England, based on quality data about our existing treescape and including clear reporting structures to ensure this happens. We also want to ensure residents, communities and volunteer-led organisations are educated and empowered to care for their local trees long-term.

We would like the opportunity to comment on a written version of the draft strategy before it is finalised. In this consultation, there is often a disconnect between the consultation narrative and the questions asked. The use of multiple-choice questions and tight word limits also makes it more challenging to give detailed and thoughtful answers. Therefore to have full confidence that urban trees, ancient trees and hedgerows are properly represented in the final strategy, consultees should be given the opportunity to see and comment on the full detail of the draft strategy before it is published.

What you can do

  1. Read our response to see what we have to say about the consultation (we may continue to update this before submitting our response to the government).
  2. Respond to the consultation directly. You can draw on any of The Tree Council responses. If you reference our response, please mention The Tree Council.
  3. Write to your MP, sharing a copy of your consultation response and asking them to ask George Eustice MP to oversee a strong Strategy.
  4. Share the consultation with your networks (social channels, friends & family) and ask them to submit a response themselves.

Our priorities for the strategy

Our key priorities are that the strategy should:

  1. Fund and establish trees outside commercial forests and large managed woodlands
    o Recognise the importance of the entire English treescape, and its importance to wellbeing, heritage, ecology and biodiversity (that is, the ecosystems services trees provide), not simply for carbon capture, timber or energy crops.
    o Offer equivalent funding, incentives and importance to establishing thriving hedgerows, urban and street trees, orchards and wood pasture as is provided to woodland trees and crop trees.
    o Commitments to include targets for the planting of street, urban and peri-urban trees, and going beyond the traditional solutions, for example by including rooftop gardens on office/housing blocks in cities.
    o Fund research into the benefits of trees within all our urban and rural landscapes, such as hedgerows, parks, wood pasture, and on streets.
    o Fund research into the most effective ways of ensuring that trees achieve their full environmental and ecosystem potential.
  2. Recognise the importance of local and regional tree strategies
    o The strategy should include firm commitment to support and fund local authorities to lead on local tree planting as a key component of local tree strategies, which includes more resources for Tree Officers – who are currently focused on statutory prevention (TPOs) rather than a duty to plant. The provision of more Tree Officers also aids community and volunteer involvement.
  3. Invest in hedgerows
    o Commit to establishing the 200,000km of urban and rural hedgerow (or in-filling with new trees, or rejuvenating) as per the recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change in May 2019. This should include planting hedge trees every 20 metres (mature standard trees of the future, over and above the main hedging species).
    o Fund research into how hedgerows can support national carbon and biodiversity goals, e.g as wildlife corridors, as protectors of soil organic carbon (SOC).
  4. Set a raft of bold, clear, statutory targets
    o Set a target for England’s contribution to the UK-wide target of planting 30,000 hectares of trees each year by 2024.
    o Targets should go up to 2050.
    o Consider basing targets on canopy cover rather than hectarage, and include a target to increase trees established in the wider landscape (outside large managed woodlands).
    o Include a target to establish, rejuvenate or ‘fill-in’ 200,000km hedgerow.
    o Local authority to set targets to increase canopy cover at municipal level.
    o Office of Environmental Protection to monitor, evaluate and report against the above targets.
  5. Set out an ambitious, legally protected, and biosecure long-term vision for a tree-filled future
    o Set out a vision for ongoing tree planting, establishment and care which will result in a future filled with trees in our streets, parks, woodlands, orchards, housing developments and public spaces.
    o Provide formal and legal protection for our ancient and veteran trees wherever they live and recognise the notable trees which stand to be our future ancient and veteran trees.
    o A commitment to develop bio-secure, UK grown, tree stock that supports commercial, local authority and community tree nurseries.
    o Make land-based careers more visible and attractive throughout the education system, widening the offer for both technical and academic qualifications, to grow the next generation of professional tree people.
    o Fund research into more sustainable methods of tree protection and include a national commitment to move away from plastic tree guards.
    o Effectively engage MHCLG, BEIS and Local Enterprise Partnerships, to recognise the role trees and nature recovery have in growing a sustainable and resilient skills-based local economy e.g. through Local Industrial Strategies.
  6. Empower communities and volunteer groups to care for their local trees
    o Fund tree establishment projects at the community level.
    o Long-term support to enable volunteers and volunteer organisations to establish and care for local trees and hedgerows.
    o Fund local authorities to provide more support and guidance on tree establishment projects to volunteer groups in their local area.
    o Harness the power of technology to engage audiences, gather and share data, improve knowledge and efficiency