P eterborough City Council’s updated Trees and Woodland Strategy was recently adopted at a meeting of the full council. While there are things to praise about it, we feel it is ultimately a missed opportunity, writes Alex Airey and Nicola Day, Peterborough Green Party coordinators.
Peterborough Green Party welcomes the way the document is built around the science of how trees can help in the fight against irreversible climate change. Trees also have a quantifiable effect on our own physical and mental health.
We fully support the council’s target to increase the number of trees in the area. The council has, however, missed an opportunity to address the concerns of some local residents when it comes to the manner in which trees are maintained.
The strategy clearly states that any tree works that are not in keeping with the health of the tree are not the council’s responsibility. It suggests that residents organise such tree works themselves, at their own cost.
In wards such as Orton Waterville and Orton Longueville where council-owned tree belt often forms a barrier between cycle paths and back gardens it is simply unrealistic – and unsafe – to expect residents to shoulder the responsibility for maintaining the council’s trees.
We have already found evidence in Orton Wistow of residents snapping off branches to move them away from the footpath.
We believe that while its current position may save the council some money, these ad hoc works by individuals will, in the long term, be detrimental not only to the health of the trees involved, but to the usefulness of our trees for cleaning our air, and clearing our heads.
What the strategy does not say is that most tree works require planning permission, especially in places like Orton where conservation areas exist, and some may have Tree Protection Orders in place. This means that people who follow the council’s advice may unintentionally fall foul of the law and be prosecuted.
While brief mention is made of doing more to tackle Japanese Knot Weed the strategy makes no mention of the other invasive species which are the bane of gardeners and allotment holders across Peterborough.
Ivy also poses a great threat to our local trees, with many residents telling us they fear for the health of the ivy-clad trees in their communities.
Sycamore saplings spring up every year, and not being dug up they grow quickly, soon producing saplings of their own. While their tops may be cut off during the bi-annual hedge trim, their root systems develop to damage paths, roads, and private property. It may surprise you that the Green Party would advocate digging trees up, but in the case of the non-native, invasive Sycamore, we believe the whole lot should be removed from the entire city and replaced with native species.
We’re keen to hear what residents think about these issues. If the council isn’t able to offer help to residents then what should we do to ensure our precious trees, and the residents who live next to them, are safe and healthy?