New plans announced by UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove will provide urban trees with increased protection against felling.

The proposals, which were recently released for consultation, required local councils to consult with communities before cutting down trees in England’s cities and town streets.

The move follows a prolonged protest against the destruction of thousands of urban trees in Sheffield, in the English county of South Yorkshire.

As part of a plan to resurface the city, over 5,500 street trees – including 2,000 deemed to be healthy – were chopped down and replaced in Sheffield. This sparked a three-year protest, which deployed van loads of police in Sheffield’s leafy suburbs, before a compromise deal was reached late in 2018.

“It’s right that the views of local people are at the heart of any decision that affects their community – and the futures of the trees that line their streets are no different”, said Mr Gove.

“Trees have often been rooted in our towns and cities for many years and are undoubtedly part of our local heritage.”

“These measures will enhance the protection given to urban trees, ensuring residents are properly consulted before trees are felled and safeguarding our urban environment for future generations.”

 

The proposals include the following measures:

  • New requirements for councils to consult residents on plans to chop down trees;
  • Responsibilities for councils to report on felling and replanting;
  • More powers for the Forestry Commission to tackle illegal felling.
  • Strengthened protection for wooded landscapes.

 

In addition to the proposed new protections, the Government has committed to planting one million trees in urban areas, on top of 11 million trees nationwide by 2022. To drive this pursuit, Mr Gove appointed Sir William Worsley to be the national tree champion in 2018.

In support of the new proposed measures, Sir William said: “Urban trees are an amazingly valuable natural resource, and with this consultation I hope we can take further steps towards strong and robust protections to ensure their futures.”

“By planting the right trees in the right place, we can ensure that they continue to improve health and well-being and encourage people to enjoy the outdoors.”

Richard Greenhous, director of forest services at the Forestry Commission, also spoke in support of the new consultation.

“The Forestry Commission recognises that our trees and woodlands are under increasing pressure, especially in and around urban areas”, he said.

“With this consultation, we hope to be able to better protect more of our cherished woodlands from illegal felling.”