Clive Stevens, Chair of Bristol Tree Forum writes:

 The date was set, the question controversial and Bristol Water rose to the challenge and responded to “Do the Utilities still hate trees?” and did so admirably; you will need to read on to draw your own conclusion as to whether it’s a yes or no!

So with a packed council chamber plus PA system (we will need to book the Colston Hall at this rate) the audience was treated to some great tales of the lengths to which Bristol Water goes to protect worthy specimens. Indeed, were the International Space Station to look down on Bristol’s flow of drinking water, then each wiggle in the route across the Downs would reveal past tree protection measures.

Additionally the plans for the new reservoir, to be built out at Cheddar, have been modified to protect two magnificent oaks, which will be on the boundary between the two reservoirs.

But trees can be in the wrong place too and we studied photos of trees planted on top of old mains hydrants (obviously planted in the wrong place) and saw the damage roots can cause to pipes if not deflected.

Much of our water system is Victorian and in need of replacement which will cause issues over the coming decades. Questions came in thick and fast: did they realise the importance of trees for slowing flooding (a question more for Wessex Water)? Why are the services not where their maps say they are? Could new developments have services routed together? A typical street has a minimum of seven different pipes or cables and each is managed separately. The importance of trees was stressed including the point that they make Bristol a pleasant city to live, shop and work in and so they help our economy. I’d like some research on that one please UWE.

Then Patric Bulmer of 'Bristol Water' threw the gauntlet back at us, with an offer of a small joint project to better explore the challenges of more urban tree planting that follows from the Mayor’s manifesto commitment. We have of course picked the glove up and will keep you informed of progress.

Following the main talk, Richard Ennion, the Council’s Horticultural Officer gave us a taster of things to come as the Mayor’s commitment to trees is developed into policy. At this stage, to be fair, it is still far from a solid plan, but the idea is to create an educational programme for primary schools to link trees into environmental studies resulting in each child being involved in planting their own tree. That’s 31,000! Money will be an issue and sponsors will be sought but probably more importantly we will need to find the land and space to plant them all in. Those who are responsible for parks, road sides, hospitals, schools and gardens will all be enrolled into this scheme as well as teachers. Further discussion on this topic had taken place at the Bristol Parks’ Forum on the 13th April; lots of talk from Park’s Groups but I feel no clear realisation of the sheer scale of this project.

The Bristol TreeForum was set up five years ago by the Council to engage with the local community and help increase the city’s tree coverage. Its current chair is Clive Stevens, local resident, business man and volunteer (like all other members). Its purpose is to persuade and influence landowners in Bristol to increase the city’s tree canopy cover. For this we need to involve more people.
Clive says; ”We live in a democracy, so we will only achieve these health benefits by cajoling our councillors, mayor and MPs into making sure trees are better protected and more get planted. We need a significant part of Bristol’s populace to support this goal. We are a catalyst and conduit to help people make Bristol a better place to live in. Just get in touch, it’s free, you don’t even have to come to our meetings, you just have to care.