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What is the Trees and Woodlands Strategy Toolkit?

The Tree Council recently launched their Trees and Woodland Strategy Toolkit which is aimed at local authority tree teams. It says on their website:

 

A Trees and Woodland Strategy is a key tool for ensuring our treescapes flourish and are protected for the future. This innovative toolkit brings together the knowledge and expertise of dozens of Local Authorities, Community Forests and sector organisations, setting us on the path to a more resilient future treescape.

 

Our consultants were keen to find out more about the document and its intended use so they joined the Trees and Woodland Strategy launch event in Leeds.

 

Why do Local Authorities need to produce Tree Strategies in the first place?

 

It is now widely recognised that urban trees provide enormous benefits to the inhabitants of towns and cities; from tackling the effects of urban heat islands and intercepting air pollution to increasing high street spending and improving residents’ well-being.

Historically in many areas of the UK, managing the urban forest has largely been done reactively as opposed to proactively. Reactive management is when a problem is acted upon only after it arises and the focus of urban forest managers is largely limited to managing health and safety risks arising from trees. Sadly this approach to tree management can lead to emerging threats going undetected, which in turn can affect the health of the urban forest and compromise its capacity to deliver the ecosystem services benefits for which it is often intended.

Tree strategies are therefore proposed as a proactive framework for addressing this moving forward. They should enable stakeholders to create a unified approach to management with defined responsibilities and strategic targets which can be set, managed, monitored and reviewed. As we have previously championed in another article; “what gets measured, gets managed, gets done.”

 

How many councils have Tree Strategies?

 

Research published in 2022 by Kathryn Hand, Harriet Rix, Jon Stokes and Kieron Doick, found that 143 of 353 (41%) English local governments had a publicly accessible urban tree strategy. However, when the researchers analysed the content of these strategies they found them to be highly variable in content. As stated in the research paper’s abstract:

The variability in the existence and content of strategies could lead to differing urban forest management practices across England, which are not in line with recent national environmental objectives and recommended guidance.

It is hoped that the Trees and Woodland Strategy Toolkit will be used by Local Authorities during the development or updating of their Tree Strategies; and that by providing such a detailed reference document there will be more consistency in the content and quality of Tree Strategies being produced.

 

Why do so many Local Authorities still not have tree Strategies?

 

Moving to a proactive ecosystem-service-based approach to urban forest management is not, as some might assume, a walk in the park.

These documents are in no way generic and take many hours of specialised, evidence-based critical thinking with a variety of co-existing place-based stakeholders. Doing this takes time, personnel, financial resources and critically – the correct level of arboricultural management knowledge to deliver a tree strategy which will sustain itself in a changing climate.

Austerity measures have significantly constrained council budgets over the past decade and the amount of money available to Local Authority tree teams has naturally been impacted by this. There remain councils which do not have a permanent Tree Officer position at all – although thankfully, more recently, this has been improving.

 

What did our consultants get out of the day?

 

In order to keep providing an outstanding service, our consultants need to understand what the future of urban forest management best practices will look like across the country.

Over a decade of refining arboricultural reports so that they are easy to use for both site managers and Tree Officers, means we can offer clear, location-specific and policy-aware advice to those proposing development; whether that’s a simple home extension, or a nationally significant infrastructure project.

At Crown Tree Consultancy we pride ourselves on our good relationships with Tree Officers and Planning Officers across the country, and it was wonderful for our consultants to catch up with tree officers based in West Yorkshire and beyond. Our arboricultural consultant Emma said:

Arboricultural Consultants Emma Hoyle and Joe Taylor

“One thing I particularly enjoyed about the day was meeting local Tree Officers. Although we occasionally meet Tree Officers during pre-application meetings for development sites, we mainly correspond via email – so it was good to be able to meet in person and not in relation to a specific site.

When we are writing reports, we are always acutely aware of what a high workload Tree Officers have and try to make our tree reports as succinct as possible. So much of our work is development-related and the planning policies are an important part of that. 

Although there are national policies like the NPPF, TCPA and Environment Act which affect everyone – it is important to consider how these Tree Strategies and Local Plans will interact with development proposals at a more local level. Thoroughly reviewing emerging policy helps us to preempt what a local authority is and is not likely to support in a planning application.

All in all, it was a great day and gave our consultants a good understanding of what to expect from tree strategy documents and their utility in the future. You can read what The Tree Council wrote about the launch event here.

If you are a Tree Officer or Local Authority which has been required to produce a tree strategy and need expert advice on developing it in line with specific arboricultural objectives, we strongly recommend having a thorough look through The Tree Council’s resources page; there is lots of helpful advice and examples of existing tree strategies on there.

If you need further consultancy help please use the quote form below to outline your requirements and our expert tree team will get back to you.

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