Published on February 9th, 2020 | by Gaelle Finley
0HANDSWORTH COUNCILLOR SPEAKS UP FOR MORE TREES
A recent petition made the news recently, organised by Friends of the Earth: Demand more trees in your neck of the woods (see link below*). It was also reprinted in the Facebook pages of Handsworth Helping Hands and Inside Handsworth, amongst others.
This petition had perfect timing, as it was revealed that Birmingham earned the prestigious Tree Cities of the World status (see link below**), which celebrates cities across all continents that meet core standards for the care and planning of urban trees and forests.
The petition inspired us to write to our Councillor (Handsworth Ward) to ask her to commit to doubling tree cover in our area.
Councillor Hendrina Quinnen replied promptly with the following:
Thank you for your recent letter regarding your request for me to support the doubling of tree cover in Birmingham by 2045 as part of a Climate Action Plan and request to the Cabinet Members responsible for this issue to commit to this.
As you may be aware Birmingham has declared a climate change emergency and has created a taskforce to draw up an action plan setting out how Birmingham will become carbon neutral by 2030; trees and other green infrastructure are an important part of this action plan. We can be proud that Birmingham City Council has been working with a range of partners for several years to increase tree cover and we are committed to continuing that important work.
In considering the doubling of tree cover or “canopy cover”, it first needs to be understood what the base level is. Birmingham has an average canopy cover of 18.6% which equates to 49Km2 of our city area, this is already above the England average of 15% and the best performing amongst the major cities in the UK.
However, this canopy coverage is not evenly spread throughout the city with some wards in the city having in excess of 30% while others are as low as 9% and it is these areas that action is needed most.
You can see the canopy cover for your ward by following the link and search for Birmingham: https://bit.ly/37EJy0h
As part of a review of the city’s tree management policies in 2017, canopy cover was calculated and a target of 25% considered to be achievable, while not a doubling of cover it would certainly be a significant increase and put the city in a good position to deal with the predicted climate change trends.
Changing the landscape of Birmingham, however, requires education and awareness raising; engaging our citizens with their trees is vital if we are to promote their importance and value to society.
Over the last 13 years the city has partnered with organisations such as Birmingham Trees for Life (BTFL), Trees for Cities and The Woodland Trust and worked with communities to plant trees in parks and other open spaces; 90,000 new trees have been planted and thousands of citizens engaged through these partnerships over that time.
Details of tree planting events across the city can be found here: https://btfl.org.uk/
The most important focus though is the tree’s establishment; too often trees are poorly planted or planted with insufficient room to grow or access to water without suitable soil volumes and live short lives.
While we do our best to give trees the right environment, access to water in the early stages is the biggest issue. Although we do water our newly planted trees, you can play a big part in their successful establishment by giving additional water to any newly planted trees near you – especially those at the roadside.
While the city does manage significant areas of land, domestic gardens make up a larger surface area. Citizens can play their part in increasing canopy cover in Birmingham too by planting a tree in their garden and encouraging others to do the same. It is important that the right tree species is planted though, there is plenty of advice available online to help select the right tree for the right place.
By working together, I am sure we can achieve a city that is resilient, biodiverse and fit to meet the challenges that the future may bring.
Councillor Hendrina Quinnen
Birmingham City Council
Birmingham B1 1BB
Telephone 0121 303 2039 (messages)
Photo: Friends of the Earth