Stop the chop – turning the tide on tree loss

Cricket Green is lucky to have such a wonderful abundance of trees.

We all benefit from their beauty, the wildlife they support and how they tell the story of the passing seasons.

They offer shade in a warming climate, trap air pollution and reduce flooding.

They are part of our heritage and vital to our future. It should be of no surprise therefore that when trees are threatened people cry out.

The ribbons round threatened trees at Mitcham Bridge and the signs warning of their imminent loss are the latest in a long line of public displays of the love for Mitcham’s trees. They need to be the last.

The public outcry at Mitcham Bridge (see photo) has prompted us to ask about the scale of what is being lost.

The results are a worrying reminder of just how easy it is to lose something so important to our neighbourhood. Our research into recent planning applications within just 800m of Mitcham cricket ground shows 138 trees are for the chop.

Many have already gone. All but eight are down to developments for which Merton Council is itself responsible. Here’s the breakdown and take a look at the map:

Mitcham Bridge – 22
Melrose School expansion – 7
Flats in Preshaw Crescent garden – 8
Flats and houses in former Canons nursery – 44
The Canons project – 38
Flats in Raleigh Gardens car park – 19

Total tree loss = 138

We would be interested to know what’s happening in other parts of Merton – email us with your thoughts.

There are plans for new trees within many of these developments. Unfortunately experience shows that too often the new trees never materialise or die within a few years and no enforcement action is taken.

We also see young saplings planted as false compensation for the loss of mature trees and we see a lack of attention to the importance of protecting the tree canopy as well as individual trees.

It is very welcome that Merton Council’s commitment to producing a Tree Strategy looks to be moving forward. Merton is also about to consult on the new Local Plan and to say what it intends to do to address the Climate Emergency. We’ve drawn up a Ten Point Plan for Trees to help. It covers land and trees in Merton Council’s responsibility as well as those for which other landowners and developers are responsible. We would welcome your ideas and proposal to care for our trees.

Our Ten Point Plan for Trees

1. Replace all lost street trees within two years and invite local communities to nominate new street trees every year.

2. Increase tree canopy by 10% by 2030 – faster than the London average – supported by revenue funding for maintenance and capital investment in new planting.

3. Audit the condition and distribution of existing trees as the basis for establishing management priorities and providing guidance on the best locations for future tree planting, including succession planting in areas of high amenity value and measures to reduce the impact of underground services, road signs, dropped kerbs (crossovers) and other Highways impacts.

4. Anticipate future climate change and maximise the benefits for wildlife, pollution control and shade in the choice of tree species.

5. Strengthen Local Plan policy to require a net increase in tree canopy and the overall value of trees where development proposals require their loss, including requiring the planting of semi-mature replacement trees and accounting for lost tree years when replacing mature trees with saplings.

6. Strengthen Local Plan policy to extend requirements for the evaluation of individual trees in development proposals to include assessments of the value of the tree canopy and its amenity and ecosystem benefit, including a financial assessment of the value of any trees to be lost in accordance with i-Tree Eco UK and CAVAT.

7. Introduce and rigorously enforce planning conditions requiring all new trees provided by new development to be maintained or replaced for a minimum of five years from completion.

8. Address the importance of existing and future trees and the tree canopy in character studies, design codes, masterplans and Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plans.

9. Provide the infrastructure and management systems needed to support effective tree maintenance and watering across the borough, including by: providing taps and mobile bowsers for use by local volunteers; changing the mowing regime for parks, green spaces and road verges to avoid tree damage; and requiring contractors idverde undertake planting, watering and maintenance of new trees in parks and green spaces in collaboration with Friends and like-minded groups.

10. Prepare and adopt a Supplementary Planning Document on trees and increasing the tree canopy.

The Tree Strategy should be independently prepared and involve all relevant parts of Merton Council, including planning, parks, green spaces, highways, schools, heritage and public health. It should be based on strong community collaboration co-ordinated by Tree Wardens Group Merton.

It’s time to stop the chop and turn the tide on tree loss.