Welcome U-turn over street trees
Published on: 30 Jan 2018
A climbdown over the proposed reduction of the street tree budget was revealed at the Cabinet meeting on January 23.
Councillor Clive Stevens asked whether there was any news on the maintenance of street trees that was stopped last year?
Cabint councillor Mhairi Threlfull replied that cuts to the planned maintenance of street trees will not be taken forward and that the council has identified income within the parking services budget. She also said that officers need to engage with the Tree Forum to look at how this is managed in the future.
Bristol City Council’s tree management budget had indicated a brutal reduction, pruning out three quarters of the annual cost from £240,000, down to £53,000 in 2018/19.
Public dismay was expressed across Bristol after the Bristol Tree Forum's public meeting in the Council House in the late summer of 2017, when suddenly people realised the consequences of the decision to spend nothing on street trees other than for reasons of safety. There was also much anger at the decision to cut the budget without consultation,.
The implications of this decision were brought out into the open and made very clear at various public meetings at Ward and Forum level.
Those living in the historic areas of Bristol, such as Westbury Park and Henleaze, where trees planted over 100 years ago need regular maintenance and pollarding to prevent damage to the footpaths, were among many of those objecting to the council’s plans.
The proposals were criticised as poorly thought out, making no economic sense and a threat to the reputation of the city as a green and pleasant place to live. For example, an injury, due to a trip hazard or a broken branch falling on someone, could result in insurance claims against the council of up to £100,000. If two of these claims were made in a year, the council would have lost the money saved.
On behalf of the trustees, Helen Furber, chair of The Henleaze Society commented: "We welcome the decision to renew the street trees budget. It will give us all an opportunity to discuss and consider actions we may need to take for next year and beyond.
"Starting the pollarding again will save some big trees from becoming too large and hence dangerous."
Stephanie French, who spent many years championing trees in the area before the Henleaze, Stoke Bishop and Westbury-on-Trym Neighbourhood Partnership was disbanded last year, warned: “This is for one year only. We need to find a number of generous corporate donors. A company - or more than one - that is proud of Bristol, has some cash and would value the advertising.”
Meanwhile the Bristol Tree Forum continues to work with the Council to try to formulate a more long-term plan.