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By Michael Brown

Senior Staff Writer

16 July 2021

| | 4 min read


Newcastle Trees Policy updated to modernise environmental management

Specialist inspectors will survey tens of thousands of trees as Newcastle City Council modernises its approach to managing the environment, making it more data led.

Sunlight through a tree's leaves - Headline: Tens of thousands of trees to be surveyed across Newcastle

The authority is responsible for around 180,000 trees on public land, with the aim to grow that number significantly by 2050.

As part of efforts to ensure they continue to thrive, play a positive role in communities, and that new planting helps make the city the greener place we all want it to be, the council is updating its policy on trees.

Cllr Clare Penny-Evans, Cabinet member for climate change and public safety, said: “We know our trees are a significant asset, providing environmental, health and economic benefits, and contributing to the beauty and character of where we live.

“Already we are well ahead of the national average for canopy cover, and our Tree Policy has been a model for councils around the country, so we do not need to make root and branch changes.

“However, it is only right that, as new technology emerges and industry best practice changes that we look to incorporate that into our plans, for the benefit of our communities.

“Moving to a ‘feature led’ approach to inspections, with detailed computer models of every tree we have, will allow us to more efficiently target our resources, keeping people safe, protecting our environment against emerging issues such as pests and diseases, as well as enabling planting initiatives which help the city deal with the impacts of climate change and promote the health and wellbeing of our residents.”

Newcastle’s Trees Policy

First published in 2002, and most recently updated in 2019, the ‘Trees Newcastle’ policy sets out how the council manages its tree and hedge stock, with the aim of retaining healthy trees, increasing canopy cover and ensuring a diverse range of species and ages.

Two years ago the authority made a commitment to increase the city’s tree canopy cover from 18.1 percent to 20 percent by 2050 - equivalent to around 19,000 extra trees.

And in April the council’s overview and scrutiny committee heard that Newcastle is well on its way towards that target, having seen more than 30,000 trees – not all of which will survive to maturity due to natural factors – planted in the last year alone.

Listening to community concerns

The updated Trees Policy also recognises that on occasion, while providing huge benefits to the communities, individual trees can cause a nuisance to households.

And the council acknowledges that from time to time it may have to take action to prevent tree from affecting residents quality of life.

Each request for pruning, felling or other works will be examined on its own merits and, where there are sound arboricultural reasons, solutions will be found.

To make that process more transparent, the updated policy also contains a new process to challenge any decision not to carry out such work.

What happens next?

The council’s Cabinet will, on Monday July 19 2021, be asked to approve the adoption of the updated Trees Newcastle policy, which would take effect from August 1.

That would, most immediately, lead to the inventory and inspections of trees on council land, which is required to switch to the new maintenance regime, being completed as soon as reasonably practical.

Then, over the next twelve months, the council will start to develop an Urban Forest Plan, which will set out a new long-term vision for trees across the city.

A new trees team, led by an expert trees manager, will oversee bids for funding, and include the council’s in-house tree inspectors and tree protection officers, leaving the authority’s Local Services arboriculture team to concentrate on the physical maintenance of trees.

And information on the authority’s website would also be updated to give the public better access to information about the trees in their area, with advice and guidance on how both residents and businesses may be able to contribute to the city’s ongoing tree planting efforts.

Councillors will also hear that, along with Durham, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside and Sunderland councils, Newcastle should hear if a joint bid to DEFRA and England Community Forests to create a new North East Community Forest has been successful sometime this summer.

That could see the creation of new forest manager and woodland officer roles to oversee tree planting in the region.