New target to increase number of trees in Peterborough

A new ambitious target to increase the number of trees in Peterborough has been recommended by the city council’s Cabinet.

The council has set a target to plant more trees in the city
The council has set a target to plant more trees in the city

It was agreed at Monday’s meeting that Peterborough should seek to revise its target of tree canopy coverage on council owned land from 22% to 25% by 2035. This would require a ten to twenty-fold increase in tree planting over the next 14 years and require up to 150,000 trees to be planted.

The recommendation, which will now be voted on by Full Council in December, is subject to securing external funding as planting and maintenance over the 14-year period would cost an estimated £5 million to £15 million.

Currently, 20% of council owned land is covered by trees, with the existing target to increase this to 22%.

The ‘25% by 2035’ target was initially recommended by a climate change working group made up of councillors from different political parties after taking evidence and receiving advice from council officers.

The group was tasked with looking at increasing levels of tree planting by Full Council in October 2020.

Councillor Peter Hiller, cabinet member for strategic planning and commercial strategy and investment, who co-presented the item at committee on Monday, said: “Trees are such an important part of our city, not just because they look nice but also for the benefits they bring not only to us humans, but also to a huge variety of biodiversity. It’s hard to imagine a world without trees.

“The council is a custodian of literally thousands of trees. In fact, we’ve recorded about 50,000 individual trees on our database that we’re responsible for across our parks and streets, and we have a further 280ha of woodlands which we also look after. Overall, 20% of all land owned and controlled by the city council is covered in trees.

“Our current Trees and Woodland Strategy is one of the best in the country. However, we are always open to further improvements and the recommendations of the Working Group contain a number of updates that Cabinet believes will strengthen it further and improve the city for all.”

Councillor Nigel Simons, cabinet member for waste, street scene and the environment also recommended the report to members and said: “The Climate Change Working Group has done a thorough job of the task set it by Full Council and I hope both Cabinet and Full Council can see the thorough investigation we held, and the clear logic in the recommendations we put forward.

“We know they are ambitious targets, but we think they are deliverable, and we think it is vital - for people, for nature and for our climate - that we do whatever we can to hit that 25% tree canopy cover by 2035.”

If increased tree planting, subject to external funding, is agreed by Full Council, this would help mitigate the effects of climate change (for instance through cooling, improved air quality and flood mitigation), and would considerably boost biodiversity.

Peterborough has recently been successful in applying for grants for tree planting after being awarded £260,000 from the Forestry Commission to enable approximately 3,300 trees to be planted this winter.

The trees will be registered under the Queen’s Green Canopy programme, a unique tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

Formal backing of the scheme – including its wider promotion among residents - was also agreed by the Cabinet at Monday’s meeting, as were changes to the council’s Trees and Woodland Strategy.