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Successfully Delivering Tree Planting

Quite a useful and interesting online seminar yesterday jointly hosted by the Landscape Institute (SW) and the Arboriculture Association (Cornwall branch.)

Whilst many within the arb industry in Cornwall will be familiar with the apparent lack of energy, initiative and enthusiasm from the Cornwall branch of the Arb Association (and Cornwall council) this was a worthwhile online seminar even though it’s main focus was Plymouth and Devon-centric.

Not too much of a surprise for those of us North of Truro, but rather indicative of just how Truro-centric much of what happens in Cornwall really is.

It remains a notable disincentive to joining the Arb Association that the ‘local’ branch is so observably inactive and that the Association was unwilling to consider a Plymouth / SE Cornwall ‘new’ branch which would better serve the considerable public customer base and arb community of those areas.

Anyway, enough of that pet peeve, the seminar opened with an Introduction to Trees, Planning and Development: A Guide for Delivery based upon the Tree Design Action Group’s guidance document first published in 2014 and which, should really, be a bookshelf staple for anyone with a serious personal or professional interest in trees in the development design, delivery and sustainability process. The TDAG webpage is a wealth of information and well worth a visit!

This was followed by an overview of the impact of Ash Dieback and the response to it in Devon delivered by Bob Stephenson Devon county council Tree officer.

Interestingly, Devon is reported to have adopted a collaborative approach including local authority, private land owners and various interested parties as broad as the Devon Hedge Group and the RSPB which have been drawn together under the umbrella of the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum. Another webpage well worth a visit.

In contrast, Cornwall council seems to have simply outsourced the problem in the Duchy to it’s private company (CORMAC) which is actually 100% owned and profit generating for Cornwall council and the extent of the action thus far appears to have been a series of letters sent from CORMAC to landowners telling them to assess and remove any infected trees.

This was followed by an overview of the considerable efforts of implementing the Plymouth & South Devon Community Forest, Urban Tree Challenge Fund which has resulted in an impressive campaign of urban tree planting. And finally, an overview of the Plymouth Plan for Trees to include Future Parks Accelerator plantings and other planting initiatives.

Useful and thought provoking continuing professional development ensuring ETGS remains fully abreast of the wider developments and implications in the planning, development, landscape and arboricultural realms with an active Q&A session for the 50 or so attendees to close and all whilst relaxing in the comfort of the office with a coffee 👍🏻☕️

The main 'take-away' thoughts:

Whilst it is all very well for landscape architects to wax lyrical about the aesthetic, cultural, financial, social, environmental and economic value added to developments by the judicious inclusion of appropriate tree retention and compensatory tree planting schemes at the design stage - there was the usual apparent lack of acknowledgement and acceptance that, like so many other areas of business and commerce, it is the 'final mile' that dictates the success and reputation of the entire process.

With the conspicuous absence of any mention of the British Standard 8545:2014 Trees: from nursery to independence in the landscape – Recommendations, and no acknowledgement of the importance of nursery stock selection and contractor monitoring and the quote that "...all the hard work is done before the hole is dug..." it is likely that new planting failure rates will remain at their embarrassingly expensive and wastefully inexcusable high rates.

Where those with great aspiration and best intentions fail to take account of what happens on-site at completion and beyond - the planting and aftercare - it should come as no surprise that failure rates for newly planted trees remains so high.