High time for trees in towns

Systems are slow and it can take time to see any impact. But we do break through…

A big part of our work is about persuading policy-makers to prioritise trees. But the cogs turn slowly, so much so that it can be years even before we see any headway.

Our ‘Trees in Towns’ campaign is a great example. We launched a petition in May 2015 in response to Natural Resources Wales’ report ‘Tree Cover in Wales’ Towns and Cities’ which showed: 

• 55 of 220 Welsh towns show overall decline in canopy cover between 2006 and 2009
• at least 11,000 large amenity trees were lost over 3 years
• urban tree canopy in Wales less than 17% in 2009 – mid range in World rankings 

Trees provide beauty and utility on our streets (Photo: WTML/Rory Francis)
Trees provide beauty and utility on our streets (Photo: WTML/Rory Francis)

A recent case study in Wrexham highlighted how trees were responsible for saving the local economy £1.3m per year, while reports by Natural Resources Wales showed that the benefits range from the obvious – slowing surface water run-off, and removing pollutants from the air –to the downright fabulous – increasing property values, and improving community cohesion. You might say that trees are a no-brainer.

Our petition called for at least 20% tree canopy cover in every Welsh city, town and village. Assembly Members, who have a role in planting and caring for the next generation of woodland as well as protecting Wales’ existing assets, were asked to urge the Welsh Government to help by establishing a challenge fund to support native tree planting close to where people live.

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Clean air, low costs and vibrancy. Street trees are doing it all. (Photo: WTML/ Phil Formby)
Clean air, low costs and vibrancy. Street trees are doing it all. (Photo: WTML/ Phil Formby)

The road has been long and winding:

January 2016
After a summer collecting signatures at events and online, our petition was formally handed to the Petitions Committee, boasting more than 2,200 signatures. Thank you to everyone who took part.

March 2016
The petition received a response from the Minister for National Resources, Carl Sargeant, who expressed agreement, pointed out that the Well-being of Future Generations Act places a statutory duty on public bodies to pursue and set of well-being goals and therefore recommended Coed Cadw work with local authorities across Wales, to help deliver this on the ground.

October 2016
The Committee considered the petition again, the Cabinet Secretary invited Coed Cadw to join the Trees and Design Action Group in her response, and highlighted the multi-benefits of urban green spaces and would go on to inform the Welsh Government’s National Natural Resource Policy.

May 2017
The Committee considered the petition again, with the knowledge that Wales had fallen to only planting 400 hectares of new woodland in one year. They highlighted these failures to the Cabinet Secretary who concurred “increasing tree canopy coverage in Wales’ towns and cities is a priority for the area statement process that will be contributed to by Natural Resources Wales” (more about Area Statements later.)

July 2017
The petition was utilised by the Welsh Assembly Environment Committee to lodge the recommendation of 20% tree canopy cover in towns in the Inquiry into Forestry and Woodlands in Wales. The Committee released recommendations at the Royal Welsh Show, and the Welsh Government has a duty to respond. We expect ambitious commitments from them on this in the autumn.

At each stage, we’ve been working behind the scenes to keep this petition alive and have provided further evidence and comment to back our call. So we’re delighted to see this very positive outcome, especially after so long. But there’s still more to do.

Discover more about the Trees in our Towns project

Trees & Towns

Putting trees on the agenda

While the Government moves ever nearer to action, we’ve got our eye on the bigger picture too. Our latest campaign aims to see more trees planted in all of our landscapes. Combined, our hard work has been paying off!

We won’t stop standing up for trees in policy.