Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Chainsaw Massacre - The Prequel

In May 2007 The London Assembly Environment Committee published their report 'Chainsaw Massacre - A Review of London's Street Trees'. Our own Green Party Councillor for Brockley Ward Darren Johnson was Chair of this committee. 

To see the report in PDF format go here

At the point of publication this was clearly a comprehensive assessment of the state of London's street trees. Taken as a whole, there had been a net gain of 8,000 trees planted across the Capital in the five years before publication (this was data collected by the London Tree Officers Association - LTOA). 

However, the picture is very patchy. 

In the same period, there had been a net loss of street trees in a third of London boroughs. Harrow, for example, lost 5,000 street trees and only replanted about 2,000, a more than 16% loss. Croydon lost 2,600 and was only able to replant 600 of the trees removed (a net loss of 6%).

The good news comes from the remaining two thirds of London boroughs who replanted more trees than they removed. Redbridge planted 4,850 trees and removed about 2,880. Barnet managed to plant over 3,700 trees having removed just over 2,400. Richmond planted 2,500 trees and removed 1,400. lambeth planted over 1,300 trees and removed just under 500 and Southwark planted over 1,750 and removed about 250. Lewisham reported 808 removals and 839 planted in the same period (a net gain of 0.26%). 

Some of the most disturbing reading is about the activity of the insurance companies whose instructions to fell trees are responsible for a considerable amount of tree destruction across the Capital. In Section 3 read this: 
3.5 The Mayor's London Tree and Woodland Framework document states that the perceived threat of subsidence [due to root incursion] is much greater than the actual threat and it is estimated that less than 1% of the total tree population has actually caused damage to properties. This has led to the London Tree and Woodland Framework Manager (LTWF Manager) naturally concluding that insurance industry subsidence statistics should be challenged.  
To support a great deal of constructive work being done by the LTOA to mitigate the effects of tree damage to property, one of the key recommendations coming out of the report states that: 

Recommendation 2
The insurance industry needs to provide evidence of better quality investigations that comply with nationally recognised guidance ensuring that accurate reliable tests are used in their investigation of tree root related subsidence claims
And in respect of the trees we are losing: 

Recommendation 3
London Boroughs should do everything within their power to prevent the loss of street trees, but where the removal of a tree is unavoidable, replacement trees should be planted in suitable and agreed locations within the same vicinity
There is much to recommend a thorough reading of this report. It is certainly a significant resource for us as we work to protect and enhance our local street tree stock. 

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