Trees and green infrastructure provision is being let down by planning and construction models. In his second article on the future of arb, Jeremy Peirce argues it's time for more effective delivery.
As a professional arboricultural consultancy working in the development sector, promoting the benefits of trees and green infrastructure is integral to the work we undertake for our developer clients. Our aim is always that clients’ projects are managed sustainably according to accepted best practice, to the betterment of the project, local communities and, ultimately, wider society.
By highlighting the value of trees and, to a certain degree, educating clients and their design teams, we hope - if only in a small way - to improve how trees and green infrastructure are managed within development and the planning system. However, it is a sad fact that trees are often regarded simply as a ‘requirement of planning’ - a final hurdle within a development that must be complied with to ensure that there is no threat of enforcement.
Developers do their job and increase the housing stock and our construction sector – like UK arboriculture – is one of the best in the world. But leaving the responsibility for the delivery of trees and green infrastructure to the development sector is unlikely to work without significant intervention: trees require the kind of long-term planning and management that continues well beyond a developer’s more immediate business goals.
Within a development of any size, different specialist contractors undertake different tasks that are let under separate contracts – drainage and strategic infrastructure, for example. As trees and green infrastructure deliver such significant benefits, shouldn’t their delivery also be let as a separate agreement to a specialist contractor?
Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) South West has recently canvassed opinion from a cross section of arb-related professionals, from tree officers to town planners, on how trees fare in the planning system. The response from practitioners – in both the private and public sectors – was clear: the planning system does not adequately protect trees, nor does it ensure that they can best deliver their benefits. Indeed most of those questioned feel that the system is unsustainable in its current model.
Trees and green spaces provide hugely significant social and environmental benefits on a scale that extends far beyond any single business’s remit. It’s time to change our planning and construction management models to systems that better deliver effective and sustainable green infrastructure.
Trees and Design Action Group aims to promote the incorporation of trees into towns and cities. Information and resources at www.tdag.org.uk