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Alarm at 2-page Islington Council tree policy
Early in 2011, public interest in trees made the headlines as hundreds of thousands opposed the government's proposals to sell off public woods and forests. Politicians across Britain now know what a sensitive issue trees are; there are no votes in chopping down trees, as one local councillor has said.
Highbury Community Association and other groups in Islington have been supportive of our trees and have been involved in tree policy in the borough and elsewhere for many years. Now, the long-awaited update to the Tree Policy for Islington, last issued in 2002, and most recently consulted upon at the close of 2009, was adopted by the council in January 2011.
However, instead of a document expected to be 50-odd pages long, giving aims, objectives and a run-down of current national policies to which Islington's own policies relate, Islington's Tree Policy 2011 fits onto just two sides of A4, with room to spare. We are pleased that as a result of a request by HCA at the Executive Meeting that formally adopted the new policy, Councillor Smith reinstated the long-standing policy of informing residents in advance of a tree being felled. HCA is also relieved that a major criticism of the draft Tree Policy made during the consultation has been covered by a statement in the Tree Policy now adopted that: “Healthy mature trees will not be removed to create space to plant new trees”. However, much valuable and interesting information is missing from the new Tree Policy – for instance, detailed explanations of why the new policies have been chosen and, especially, how they will be implemented. We understand the Council has no intention of publishing an implementation strategy as a separate document. We believe the council should publish this as it is important for supporting democracy and maintaining accountability to the electorate.
As a consequence of the Council's decision, there is very considerable concern that the new Tree Policy does nothing more than list its policies in quite a cryptic way and we will continue to seek publication of information about the way in which the council sees its policies being put into practice. For anyone who has an interest in local trees, this website will maintain all the documents from the 2002 Policy onwards, including what is generally considered to be a model policy of 20 pages produced by the City of Newcastle, a city that has won an award for its environmental practice. Reading them together, these documents give a much wider context in which to think about the issues facing trees in Islington.
More recently, in June 2012, the Trees and Design Action Group has promoted the importance of a tree strategy for towns in ”Trees in the Townscape: A Guide for Decision Makers“. TDAG advises Local Authorities to, ”Produce, adopt and implement a collaborative strategy for protecting, developing and managing a thriving, benefit-generating urban forest which is in tune with local needs and aspirations“.
This is a summary of a longer article by HCA Committee member Robin Hull in the January 2011 newsletter. Click here for the full version.
HCA documents for download
HCA submission to Islington Overview Committee, February 2011, (52 KB)
HCA response to Islington consultation on draft tree policy, February 2010, (615 KB)
Islington Council documents for download
Islington tree policy 2011, (24 KB)
Islington draft tree policy 2009, (1.7 MB)
Islington tree policy 2002, (562 KB)
Model of good practice for download
Newcastle council's tree policy, (2.04 MB)
Trees in the Townscape, (4.13 MB)