Thursday 30 January 2020

Scrutiny makes recommendation that Cabinet ring fence £700k for tree replacement and planting

Scrutiny Committee last night heard a presentation about street trees from Alison Durant of the Brent Trees Group and considered a recommendation that some of the one-off £700,000 made from the sale of additional cemetery space could be used to plant and maintain trees.

The recommendation had been made in the Budget Scrutiny Report:
To acknowledge the great work of the department in achieving these savings, we believe that this money should be ring fenced to be spent on a project with an environmental theme. In line with the council’s priorities, and the fact that Brent has recently declared a climate emergency, the obvious area for spending this money would be on improving air quality. There are actions that can be undertaken by the authority to improve air quality where a one-off capital injection of £700,000 would make a significant difference. 

We believe the most notable is in the area of tree planting. The council currently does not have the revenue budget to replace all diseased or dying trees it removes (outside of those removed as part of the footway improvement plan), or to plant all of the mature trees it would like to. The presence of mature trees on our streets can help to reduce levels of carbon in the atmosphere and significantly reduce storm water runoff. We will therefore be recommending to cabinet that this pot of money is ring fenced and invested in a tree planting scheme.
Responding Cllr Margaret McLennan, deputy leader and lead member for Finance and Resources, said that it could be considered but that the first obligation of the Council was to provide hard-pressed statutory services.

In her presentation Alison Durant made the following points:

  • Brent views trees in terms of their immediate and future potential cost to the council.
  • The council fails to calculate the value of its mature street trees.
  • Brent Trees public meeting with the council was attended by 150 residents, which demonstrates the strength of feeling about the lack of care of street trees, removal of healthy street trees, lack of replacement of trees removed, and stumps being left in the place of removed trees.
  • At the public meeting we made a presentation on the value of mature trees: amenity, carbon sequestration, air quality control, air cooling, storm-water run-off, to name a few.  Small replacement trees and new small trees will provide relatively little in terms of climate change mitigation compared to large mature trees. 
  • We have a climate crisis; Brent Council has declared a “climate and ecological emergency”; Brent aspires to be the “cleanest and greenest” London borough; and yet it removes mature healthy trees that mitigate climate change in order to save money.
  • Brent Council has historically underfunded trees; the council has admitted that it removes trees because it can’t afford to maintain them and yet the environment department underspends year after year. 
  • There is a compelling case for committing additional funds to the maintenance of street trees, replacement of street trees, replacement of street trees removed historically.

Cllr Nerva pointed out that there were 12,000 tree stumps in Brent that needed to be removed. He suggested that there needed to be a more efficient use of Neighbourhood CIL money for trees perhaps led by an application from the Environment  Department and then allocated according to a set of criteria to local neighbourhoods. Cllr Tatler said she was talking  with Cllr Krupa Sheth (Lead Member for Environment) on how to approach the planting of trees.  The first priority should be to plant in the borough's areas of poor air quality.  The Environment Department was looking at methods of establishing a monetary asset value for all of the borough's trees.

Cllr Nerva is leading a Scrutiny Task Group on trees. Contact:

Scrutiny's recoemmendations will be considred by the Cabinet at its Budget meeting.

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