04/22 Tree Officer Report for April 2022

My activities fall into two categories; saving trees and promoting trees.

Saving Trees

Trees in our area are felled or severely cut back for many reasons.  Trees felled as a result of new development or in response to subsidence create much publicity and distress, but these actually account for a small portion of tree felling in the area.  By far the largest cause of tree felling is the decision of the private householder.  Common reasons are the creation of more light and space, avoidance of leaf fall, fear of storm damage, erection of a new shed or extension and provision of front garden parking space.

As most of the Association’s territory lies within a Conservation Area, most tree work requires Council approval.  However, in practice, the Council is only able to withhold approval if a tree either has or merits a TPO (Tree Preservation Order).  A large part of my activity involves monitoring requests for tree work, inspecting threatened trees and then trying to persuade the Council to reject the proposed tree work.  I’ve been successful in saving up to 5 trees, but that’s only a small portion of the tree work requests.

More recently, I’ve taken a look at the system for granting TPOs.  For a number of reasons, the Council appears to be less willing and able to grant TPOs than in the past.  I’ve now started discussion with the Council’s Tree Department about updating the TPO process so that more trees get TPO status.

There’s very little new development in our area and in the few cases where a developer wants to fell trees, planning permission can be granted requiring the planting of new trees and the protection of existing trees.

As regards subsidence, insurance companies are keen to “reach for the chain saw” so as to avoid or delay engineering solutions.  This is a controversial area as although trees are often implicated in subsidence, climate change and drought are also significant causes.  Further, felling a tree can aggravate the problem, whilst it may be possible to minimise future damage by regular pollarding of trees, rather than felling.  This is why the Council has an active programme of regular pollarding of our street trees.  There is a growing local campaign to stop pollarding of street trees, but this will only lead to more damage to our homes and the eventual loss of the trees in any case.

Promoting Trees

I have undertaken three activities to promote new tree planting; identifying opportunities to plant trees in our streets, working with Thames Water to plan trees at the Fortis Green Reservoir site, and publicising the Council’s own plant a tree scheme.

Unfortunately, the Council’s priority for tree planting is the Eastern end of Haringey.  Plans to plant street trees in our areas have been delayed by Covid and budgetary constraints.  Although I’ve identified some opportunities, the Council has not responded to my suggestions, not take up my offer to work with them to identify new opportunities.

I’ve been more successful working with Thames Water.  Last Autumn the Reservoir and Pump Station sites were surveyed.  A certain amount of remedial and engineering work is needed before any tree planting can commence, but I’m hopeful that trees will be planted in the 2022-23 planting season.

Local Woods

We are fortunate in having extensive woodlands in our midst; Coldfall Wood, Queens Wood and Parkland Walk.  These areas are Council-owned and managed but have generally been neglected for many years. Although there are Friends Groups, these are not adequately consulted and there are considerable differences between the Council and the Friends Groups.  Sometimes it’s a matter of poor communication, but at other times preservation of the woodlands appears to have a low priority. I hope to bet more involved in these matters in the coming years.

Jonathan Popper