Baltonsborough Parish Council Tree Policy
Trees, hedgerows and woods are an important part of our landscape. They provide rich habitats for the UK’s increasingly pressured wildlife, they could potentially perform a pivotal part of efforts to combat climate change by sequestering CO2 and they intercept rainfall and reduce runoff and flooding. They are also much-loved and a source of inspiration and beauty. The therapeutic power of trees is widely recognised so that healthcare and tree-care go hand in hand.
Nationally, our trees are under attack from disease, development and poor management. Locally, our landscape is particularly threatened by ash die-back. For example, of the approximately 45 hedgerow trees in Muchelney Lane, 38 are ashes. The declining health of our local orchards is also a concern with many trees covered with mistletoe and others dead or dying. In the Parish Community Led Plan of 2012, the orchards in and around the village were “much valued, with 59% ‘strongly agreeing’ and 85% overall ‘agreeing’ that more should be done to preserve and maintain these” (p. 6).
In view of the above, the following Tree Policy has been adopted by Baltonsborough Parish Council. The overall aims of the policy are to promote, encourage and facilitate:
The regeneration of local orchards
New planting to increase tree cover
The protection of existing trees and hedgerows
Ensure that legal obligations arising from planning consents are met
The tree policy has been developed using the template produced by Reimagining the Levels as a starting point. This template is supported in the Draft Somerset Climate Emergency Framework. Two tree champions have been appointed (Paul Sander-Jackson and Mary Phillips). The tree champions will be responsible for implementing the Actions and working with the local community, including farmers, to protect existing trees, replace those which are lost and increase tree cover in the Parish. The tree champions will report back to the PC. Help is available to cover the costs of tree planting (e.g. from Reimagining the Levels and the Somerset Community Fund). The champions will access relevant planning applications and information such as detailed maps (if available) and a list of TPOs.
Actions to address continuing tree loss and promote tree planting
The appointed tree champions will inform the parish council about tree matters, advise on suitable actions and lead on the co-ordination of tree planting projects. The tree champions will set up a volunteer group to take forward such projects.
When applications are made to fell trees, the PC will, whenever possible, recommend when responding to such applications that a suitable replacement tree, or trees, are planted, either on or near the felled tree or on an alternative site to be agreed with the owner.
The PC will seek an agreement with Mendip District Council that a replanting condition be included in all consents which are granted in the Parish.
The PC will take an active interest in and encourage developers to ensure that all trees, shrubs and hedges which are planted on development sites (as a condition of planning consent) are actually planted and that they survive. Where trees are lost, the developer has an obligation to replace any losses for a period of 5 years. While this is sometimes monitored by District Officers, they are not always aware of the local situation and the PC, through the tree champions, is in a good position to monitor losses and notify the District that enforcement action be taken where necessary.
In some cases, occupants of new houses may not welcome the trees or shrubs in their gardens which are a planning condition and remove them. The PC will inform the District Council when this happens and, where possible, negotiate a more suitable location for unwanted trees by agreement with all parties.
The PC will take an active role in encouraging residents of the Parish to offer suitable sites for planting new trees, shrubs or hedges or regenerating existing sites, particularly orchards, and have an annual tree and shrub planting programme.
The PC will use its best endeavours to encourage and facilitate the creation of new community woodlands and the maintenance of existing community woodlands and community orchards in the parish.