Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Chainsaw Massacre - The Prequel

In May 2007 The London Assembly Environment Committee published their report 'Chainsaw Massacre - A Review of London's Street Trees'. Our own Green Party Councillor for Brockley Ward Darren Johnson was Chair of this committee. 

To see the report in PDF format go here

At the point of publication this was clearly a comprehensive assessment of the state of London's street trees. Taken as a whole, there had been a net gain of 8,000 trees planted across the Capital in the five years before publication (this was data collected by the London Tree Officers Association - LTOA). 

However, the picture is very patchy. 

In the same period, there had been a net loss of street trees in a third of London boroughs. Harrow, for example, lost 5,000 street trees and only replanted about 2,000, a more than 16% loss. Croydon lost 2,600 and was only able to replant 600 of the trees removed (a net loss of 6%).

The good news comes from the remaining two thirds of London boroughs who replanted more trees than they removed. Redbridge planted 4,850 trees and removed about 2,880. Barnet managed to plant over 3,700 trees having removed just over 2,400. Richmond planted 2,500 trees and removed 1,400. lambeth planted over 1,300 trees and removed just under 500 and Southwark planted over 1,750 and removed about 250. Lewisham reported 808 removals and 839 planted in the same period (a net gain of 0.26%). 

Some of the most disturbing reading is about the activity of the insurance companies whose instructions to fell trees are responsible for a considerable amount of tree destruction across the Capital. In Section 3 read this: 
3.5 The Mayor's London Tree and Woodland Framework document states that the perceived threat of subsidence [due to root incursion] is much greater than the actual threat and it is estimated that less than 1% of the total tree population has actually caused damage to properties. This has led to the London Tree and Woodland Framework Manager (LTWF Manager) naturally concluding that insurance industry subsidence statistics should be challenged.  
To support a great deal of constructive work being done by the LTOA to mitigate the effects of tree damage to property, one of the key recommendations coming out of the report states that: 

Recommendation 2
The insurance industry needs to provide evidence of better quality investigations that comply with nationally recognised guidance ensuring that accurate reliable tests are used in their investigation of tree root related subsidence claims
And in respect of the trees we are losing: 

Recommendation 3
London Boroughs should do everything within their power to prevent the loss of street trees, but where the removal of a tree is unavoidable, replacement trees should be planted in suitable and agreed locations within the same vicinity
There is much to recommend a thorough reading of this report. It is certainly a significant resource for us as we work to protect and enhance our local street tree stock. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Ash clouds ... and silver linings ...

Whilst the recent news of this potentially devastating fungal disease hits the news, this Radio 4 program by the Saving Species team discusses ash dieback and other tree diseases and our complicated relationship with tree planting in general. Whilst mostly relevant to forestry planting, it is also relevant to urban tree planting:

As Tree Wardens we are keen to raise awareness of the value of our trees in public spaces, and are very conscious that we are planting for the future. What we plant, and where is something we are actively thinking about and discussing with Green Scene, the part of Lewisham Council charged with the management of trees and public green space.

Developments will be posted here. 

Anthony, Nicola, Eamonn & James
Tree Wardens
The Brockley Society 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Hatchet jobs

"I cannot tell a lie,
I did it with my little hatchet"

Apple tree or cherry, the popular fable about the young George Washington's antics with his new hatchet is still a story with resonance ...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And a happy birthday to you too!

Whilst the main focus of this blog is the care and preservation of our street trees, and more generally trees in public spaces, we are also happy to publicise the difficulties and dilemmas people are having that are related to trees on private land.

This story came our way last week. It is hard to understand how our planning system can result in such a brutalising process. The thorny issue of damage to property by tree roots is immensely complex and the Brockley Society Tree Wardens are actively seeking a meeting with Lewisham Planning Department to discuss the problem. In the meantime, if you have stories to share that have left you wondering about our priorities when it comes to our local tree stock, please get in touch using the email address on the Contacts tab above. 

Lucy writes: 

It was a sad day indeed when I returned home from work one evening in early October to find the beautiful, large apple tree in our front garden felled to the ground. I was shocked, angry and upset that this had happened and went straight onto the Lewisham Council website to search for a number to call to alert them. In doing so, I noticed a link to a list of planning applications and to my great surprise, top of the list was my address (my actual flat number) listed with the request to fell the apple tree – approved!

[Here is the tree - to the right of the front door]

After speaking with the council it transpired that our neighbour had in fact applied for the tree to be felled and this had been approved by the Lewisham Council Planning Department and the Amenity Society Panel without the need to notify us - the owners of the property where the tree is located!

Sadly, the deed is done and no amount of complaining can restore the tree or the character it provided to the property. However, having seen the very lengthy list of approved tree felling in The Brockley Society newsletter this month, I am disappointed that the planning authority and the local amenity society seem to be approving these applications rather than trying to protect the trees in our conservation area and find alternative solutions where trees are deemed to be causing a problem.

The reason none of these applications are receiving appeals is because nobody knows about them, unless you happen to browse the Lewisham Planning Department application website on a regular basis on the off chance an application is submitted for your front garden or neighbouring property – not something I’m sure many people do in their spare time!

Sadly, many of the trees felled may have been saved if the locals were aware of the proposals and had a chance to appeal. It seems to me the planning process needs to be reviewed to avoid these scenarios in our lovely neighbourhood - so keep up the good work Tree Wardens of Brockley and good luck liaising with the council and other bodies to reduce these tree losses in the future.

Since this story was penned, we have learned that this apple tree was planted by Lucy's upstairs neighbour's mother to mark his birth. It was unceremoniously felled this October a day after his 27th birthday ...

[And here's the stump after the contractor's visit]

Sunday, 4 November 2012

1,000+ pageviews and counting ...

We weren't at all sure how much traffic we would attract to the blog when we posted our first entry on 21st September. So we are delighted and encouraged that this weekend we have passed the 1,000 pageviews watermark. 

Please feel free to respond to postings on the blog. We would love to hear from you!

Our thanks to all those who are broadcasting our presence and to all the messages of support we have been receiving. 

Nicola, Anthony, Eamonn & James
Tree Wardens
The Brockley Society

Ash clouds ...

Well, the news of the ash disease chalara fraxinea hit the headlines again on Friday with the government calling a meeting of the COBRA committee, usually reserved for discussing national disasters and terrorism. Perhaps at last this issue is getting the attention it deserves (see here). 

Whatever you make of the recriminations of the arboriculturalists who apparently warned the government as far back as 2009, the disease is in the wild and quite likely to cause massive damage to a very common and beautiful tree species. Whether we are going to loose trees on the scale of the Dutch Elm Disease tragedy of the late 60's, only time will tell, but George Monbiot on Newsnight on Friday night thinks we will.

Perhaps you aren't aware of the ash trees in our vicinity? 

There are some lovely mature specimens in Hilly Fields. The one on the left here is at the entrance to the park at the junction of Tressillian Road and Hilly Fields Crescent.

The two below are very close to the tennis courts and playground: 

Mature ash trees in Hilly Fields - 3rd November 2012
If you are looking for reliable information about the disease, FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) have posted a useful YouTube video on the life-cycle of the pathogen. 

Notifications are apparently the responsibility of the Forestry Commission, who have posted the following information on their website: 

Mature ash - corner of Hilly Fields Crescent and Tressillian Road - 3rd November 2012