To consider a report seeking approval to adopt North Tyneside’s revised Tree Management Policy and new Tree Planting Strategy.
Cabinet considered a report seeking approval for the adoption of a revised North Tyneside Tree Management Policy and new Tree Planting Strategy.
The Authority’s green spaces provided important recreational areas for communities to enjoy. Trees in particular, bring benefits for physical health and emotional wellbeing.Trees were an important part of the borough’s landscape and were a sensitive and sometimes emotive issue to manage. The Authority had responsibility for the management and maintenance of approximately 141,000 trees across the borough. This included trees in open spaces, parks, cemeteries and woodland areas.
Every year the Authority received hundreds of tree related enquiries relating to requests for pruning, tree removal, tree planting and the removal of leaf litter. Trees made a valuable contribution to both wildlife conservation and the protection and development of a variety of habitats. They contributed to the visual landscape by softening the shape of the built environment and could positively affect property values. Trees and woodland areas played a crucial role in the carbon cycle, acting as sinks (absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere) and stores (retaining carbon in trees and soils) helping to improve air quality and reduce the impact of flash flooding. They also protected soil from erosion and reduced sediment run-off.
In 2009, the Authority introduced a Tree Management Policy. The policy was a framework which set out how the Authority protected and managed its trees. It was also a reference point to enable a consistent approach towards tree management. The policy was reviewed in 2010 and again in 2016, to take into consideration quality of life issues and to include a comprehensive list of tree species recommended for specific land types or locations. The policy took into consideration the Authority’s Biodiversity Action Plan. In relation to biodiversity, trees provided a stable eco-system where wildlife such as birds, animals, insects and plants thrived. The policy also took into consideration other sustainable development policies, which sets out management objectives for managing specific areas such as open spaces, schools, cemeteries, housing estates and parks.
In July 2019, full Council declared a Climate Emergency, setting a target to reduce the carbon footprint of the Authority and the borough by 50% by 2023, and to be carbon neutral by 2050.Subsequently, in further acknowledgement of the urgency of the Climate Emergency, the refreshed Our North Tyneside Council Plan 2021-25, approved by full Council in September 2021, included the following ambition: “We will publish an action plan of the steps we will take and the national investment we will seek to make North Tyneside carbon net-zero by 2030.” Protecting existing trees and increasing tree planting, woodland and canopy cover would form a key part of the carbon net-zero 2030 plan that Cabinet would consider in 2022.
In November last year, the Executive Leadership Academy for Elected Members was launched. Participants were supported by officers to explore a policy issue of interest. The Authority’s Tree Management Policy was subsequently selected as a policy of interest by Councillor Thirlaway, a participant on the Executive Leadership Academy, in recognition of the importance that trees had on reducing carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
A working group was established including Councillor Thirlaway and council officers, to review the existing Tree Management Policy. As part of this work, changes were made to the Authority’s Tree Management Policy. It was also recognised that a new Tree Planting Strategy should be developed, to support full Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency.
In July this year, the Authority, together with other Local Authorities in the region including Newcastle, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Gateshead and Durham were successful in securing funding to establish a North East Community Forest, with the ambition to plant 500 hectares of woodland by 2025. This funding supported the objectives set out in the Tree Planting Strategy.
On 7 September 2021, the refreshed Tree Management Policy and draft Tree Planting Strategy was presented to the Authority’s Environment Sub-Committee for comment and consideration.
As part of the conclusion of the Executive Leadership Academy, Councillor Thirlaway presented this policy development work to Cabinet Members, which was supported to be taken forward for a decision and implementation.
Cabinet considered the following decision options:
Option 1 - to accept the proposed Tree Management Policy changes and the introduction of the Tree Planting Strategy.
Option 2 - to not approve the proposed Tree Management Policy changes and introduction of the Tree Planting Strategy.
Option 3 - to request changes to the Tree Management Policy and Tree Planting Strategy, prior to further consideration by Cabinet.
Resolved thatthe revised Tree Management Policy and introduction of the Tree Planting Strategy, as detailed in Appendices 1, 2 and 3 of the report, be approved.
(Reason for decision:The Tree Management Policy has been updated to incorporate legislative changes and includes a new section on climate change.
Agreeing the recommendations set out in paragraph 1.2 of this report will support the delivery of the Our North Tyneside Council Plan 2021-25 carbon net zero 2030 ambition and the additional benefits that protecting existing trees and increasing tree planting, woodland and canopy cover can bring.)