Communities to get say in protecting trees

The environment secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to ensure councils cannot cut down street trees without first consulting communities.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a consultation on a raft of new forestry measures, designed to ensure local people have a bigger say over what happens to the trees in their communities.

The consultation follows a long-running row between protestors and Sheffield City Council after thousands of trees were cut down by contractors.

Under the new proposals, councils would be required to consult local residents on whether trees should be felled.

Councils would also have to report on tree felling and replanting and the Forestry Commission would be given more powers to tackle illegal tree felling and strengthen protection of wooded landscapes.

‘It’s right that the views of local people are at the heart of any decision that affects their community – and the futures of the trees that line their streets are no different,’ said Mr Gove.

‘Trees have often been rooted in our towns and cities for many years, and are undoubtedly part of our local heritage.

‘These measures will enhance the protection given to urban trees, ensuring residents are properly consulted before trees are felled and safeguarding our urban environment for future generations.

The government’s ‘tree champion’ Sir William Worsley, added: ‘Urban trees are an amazingly valuable natural resource, and with this consultation I hope we can take further steps towards strong and robust protections to ensure their futures.

‘By planting the right trees in the right place we can ensure that they continue to improve health and wellbeing and encourage people to enjoy the outdoors.’

Earlier this month (December), the protestors and Sheffield City Council reached a compromise agreement, which means fewer trees will be removed.

‘This issue has been ongoing for a number of years and we are under no illusions that it can be resolved overnight,’ said cabinet member for environment and street scene, Cllr Lewis Dagnall.

‘However, I am hopeful that this plan is the first step towards working together with the overwhelming number of people and organisations across the city that have a passion and wealth of expertise to protect and enhance the proud green landscape that Sheffield is famous for.’

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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