Not just Greens care about trees - Julie Howell, Peterborough Green Party

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
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You don’t have to be a ‘Green’ to care about trees. Trees interest all sorts of people from across the political spectrum.

Our trees are the lungs of Peterborough. When planted near busy, polluting roads they silently and graciously absorb harmful carbon dioxide that our vehicles release into the atmosphere.

the now felled Waterville ashsupp

the now felled Waterville ashsupp

Our love for trees must be why it hurts so much when we hear that local trees have been vandalised.

Ferry Meadows and other local parks have recently lost a number of saplings, destroyed for reasons unknown by cowards who lurk in the night. Last month, young trees were broken in Broadway. And every Christmas, residents express their disappointment that Cathedral Square no longer hosts a real Christmas tree. Trees stir strong emotions.

Peterborough Environmental City Trust (PECT) recently planted its 100,000th tree. To celebrate this milestone, PECT launched a competition, challenging residents to take a photograph of an iconic Peterborough tree. The winner was Peterborough Green Party Chairman Roger Proudfoot’s shot of the recently lost Orton Waterville ash. This mighty tree, which stood for centuries, was felled as a nasty fungus had rendered it impossible to save. In its place, Peterborough City Council (PCC) will plant an oak, which we hope will grow to be just as mighty as its iconic predecessor.

Peterborough Green Party receives many emails from residents concerned about their local trees.

These fall into two categories: concern about council activity (felling or cutting back) and concern about council inactivity (lack of appropriate maintenance). Tree belts provide habitat for birds and small mammals in addition to sound-proofing and privacy, and trees also reduce flood risk as they can absorb 67 times more run-off water than grassland.

While a tree is a beautiful thing, all trees must be appropriately maintained to keep them safe and healthy. Tree overgrowth is unsightly and can be dangerous. Some of the trees planted by the Peterborough Development Corporation are reaching the end of their natural lives and difficult decisions must be made about whether decaying trees should be left to stand a few years longer or taken down in the interests of safety. When they are taken down, they must be replaced by native trees such as oak or ash and the felling and planting must take place at a time that will cause least disruption to local habitat.

PCC has announced that its contract with Amey, the contractor that maintains Peterborough’s trees, is to end. What will this mean for Peterborough’s trees? With PCC facing extreme budget limitations, our tree officers will need help from all of us to fight to maintain the trees we have and ensure that several trees are planted for each one that is lost. Any new contractor must possess expert knowledge of trees and a determination to challenge PCC when faced with the prospect of further cuts to the tree maintenance budget. Will you join us in standing up for Peterborough’s trees?

Without them, Peterborough will struggle to catch its breath.