The Tree Forum meeting was held on 30 September 2013; this report is from Clive Stevens, Chair, Bristol TreeForum
George and Gus, on different sides of the Castle Park debate?
The proposal to fell 44 mature trees in the centre of Bristol to remove those derelict carbuncles that blight our city centre might have divided the leaders of Bristol …but more on that later…
Clive Stevens, Chair, welcomed the Mayor and Assistant Mayor and promptly outlined his own vision of a future fund raising approach to re-tree Bristol involving a true collaboration between the Council, the Mayor, the TreeForum and business. “Only this way”, said Clive, “can we realistically achieve anything near the doubling of tree canopy that the next generation need to maintain their health”. Was he listened to? Time will tell.
The audience, then quizzed the Mayor regarding tree trails, dog damage (to bark, if you pardon the pun), the poor state of a section of the Blaise Estate, what about protection for iconic trees on council land and of course, Castle Park. On the latter our Mayor explained he wanted a debate and then most eloquently put forward one side of the argument.
Our Key Note Speaker, Gus Hoyt, Assistant Mayor, explained that when he was appointed by the Mayor late last year the two of them had discussed the commitment to increase tree canopy and he was given the brief “get going and do it right”. As a Green, Gus presumably required no persuasion. He outlined the benefits of trees for public health and food resilience. This links into Bristol’s 2015 European Green Capital project to involve every primary school child in planting a tree: fruit trees and others to be planted in schools, parks, streets, cyclepaths, other transport routes, derelict land and more and to provide a long term legacy of not only more trees but also a “tree connection” for a whole new generation of Bristolians.
Gus allowed 30 minutes for questions; they came thick and fast. What about a Bristol Tree Czar? Answer: Still being debated, not sure if the role will be a Councillor or a member of the public. Can the Council be less bureaucratic? Answer: YES
Q: New trees are good but you must look after them. A: (regarding the 800+ tree stumps that have appeared around our city), yes we are looking at how we can solve this problem. Q: Currently trees are being taken out of front gardens to build driveways, A: This green element must be taken account of in planning. Another nine questions and answers and we allowed Gus to escape our clutches. A short break for a cup of tea, biscuit and chat. This pause uncovered a host of people involved with their local trees. Please let me know who you are so we can create a network to support one another.
The meeting closed with Jon Clark, Director of the charity, The Forest of Avon Trust. Jon explained how important it is to plant trees in a garden and that his charity has specific solutions for gardens of any size, whether a balcony or a 5 acre estate. For the former, a dwarf tree in a pot, but still a tree, just. Jon has trees and grants and can advise as to suitability. It’s easy to find out, just get in touch with him on:
http://forestofavontrust.org/ or ring 0117 963 3383.
And Castle Park? Bristol’s Central Area Plan Preferred Options (consultation closes 18th October) shows the council selling 15% of the park to add to the land with the buildings on, to make it sufficiently profitable? The Mayor now says it won’t be so much. The demolition and building will be on a scale possibly the size of The Galleries but in an old, pre-war layout. Between 15 and 44 mature trees would be felled with new planting of up to 440 (could cost £1m alone). The current stance of the TreeForum is that we appreciate the need to remove these concrete monoliths but we object to this scheme as the proposal doesn’t even follow Bristol’s Planning Policy (BCS9). And even if it did, where are they going to plant 440 trees in the Centre? This is where they are most needed to combat the Urban Heat Island Effect, reduce air pollution (one of the worst in the UK) and provide other health benefits. So George we agree with you, there is a need for a debate.
Next meeting of Bristol Tree Forum is on 13th January 2014, 6pm at City Hall, includes elections of Chair/Vice Chairs.