For the love of street trees

London has (largely) welcomed the hot July we have had but our green spaces and green infrastructure has been suffering in the heat.  Adam Price, Senior Planner at Tibbalds, tells us about the interventions he’s been making in his part of London to help the street trees thrive and to continue to deliver the environmental benefits they bring.

by Adam Price

It’s been an unusually hot, dry summer so far and it’s becoming increasingly visible in our green spaces. In particular, it’s taking its toll on London’s trees.

My street is typical of inner London, lined by Victorian terraced houses, set behind low brick walls and planted forecourt gardens. Along the pavement are hundreds of street trees, of a variety of species, some as old as the properties which line the street, some much more recent additions.

Whilst the gardens are watered regularly by hand or sprinkler system, it’s evident that some councils are struggling to fund non-essential services or opting to reduce funding for those which are perceived as being less important functions. Arguably, funding for parks and city greening could fall under this umbrella and certainly if seen as having mainly an aesthetic role.

In my view, the many thousands of street trees across London form a crucial part of its character and of course have an aesthetic value. But the role of these trees is so much more than this. The benefits are numerous and include, to name but a few, a reduction in pollution, the provision of shelter from rain and sunlight (especially the latter at present!), as well as providing a range of biodiversity and mental wellbeing benefits. You can’t have escaped the news stories of protests recently in Sheffield where the Council is undertaking significant tree felling work across the city’s streets – we clearly love our street trees!

It is for these reasons that we need to look out for the trees in our streets and especially during long hot, dry periods. Concerned with the continuing health of my local environment, I have taken steps to help the situation and support the Council’s maintenance regime in this unusually prolonged hot spell. On my way past in the morning or evening, I have been watering two of the youngest and most affected trees in my street, a few weeks ago wilting and leaves becoming brown. This tiny part of my day appears to be increasing the chances of the trees surviving another year, at least in part of one street in my borough – we will have to wait and see.

I was pleased to see this week that it wasn’t just me who has these concerns but residents in the neighbouring borough who have in fact tied signs to some of the youngest and most vulnerable trees encouraging others to help in keeping the borough green.

My message is to do the same this summer – take a look at any newly planted trees in or near your street and either contact the Council’s tree department or volunteer to keep London green and healthy. Don’t assume that someone else will; If it looks thirsty and no rain is planned – give it a water!

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