Calls for county council to replace roadside trees felled across Hertfordshire in past decade

The motion was considered by the highways and transport cabinet panel

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 17th September 2021, 7:14 am

Calls for the county council to replace roadside trees that have been lost over the past decade have been made by a Liberal Democrat councillor.

During the last 10 years hundreds of trees have been felled or removed from roadsides across the county.

And in a motion – considered by the highways and transport cabinet panel on Tuesday, September 14, – Cllr John Hale called for them to be replaced, as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative.

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The image has been used for illustrative purposes (C) Getty Images

Cllr Hale welcomed the ‘unique’ tree planting project – created to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, telling councillors it was “a great initiative”.

But he focussed on the ‘large number of trees’ that he had seen removed from the highway since becoming a councillor – highlighting one unnamed road where he’s heard that more than 10 had been removed, but just one replanted.

In the motion – originally tabled for a meeting of the full council in July – Cllr Hale called on the council to identify ALL roadside locations where a tree has been removed in the past 10 years, without being replaced.

And he called on the council to replace those trees – either in the same place or in an alternative roadside location.

Council officer Chris Jackson told the meeting the council did not have the resources to look back at all trees that had been removed over the past 10 years.

But he suggested many of those trees would have been ‘self-set’ trees – and removed from the highways because they were too close to drainage channels, street lighting, barriers or signs.

And he said highways teams were already working with the Sustainable Herts team in a bid to plant new trees – particularly in areas with limited tree canopy cover or poor air quality.

The council’s ‘Highways Tree Strategy’, it was reported, commits to replace removed trees where possible – and to seek a nearby location when this is not possible.

But at the meeting leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst said this was not always the case.

Data reported to the panel revealed that in 2018/9 there were 461 roadside trees removed – and just 308 replaced.

In 2019/20, it says, there were 1,194 felled and just 390 replaced. And in 2020/21 there were 2,839 trees felled – and just 342 replaced.

However, it also revealed the large number of trees planted around new road developments in the county.

There were, it says, 54 trees removed for the work on the A120 Little Hadham Bypass – but 49,000 new trees were planted.

On the ‘section B upgrade’ of the A602, it was reported that 200 trees were removed – but 18,790 were planted.

And on the New River Bridge, 65 trees were removed – but 1,328 were planted.

So, overall – says the report to the cabinet panel – there were 4,813 trees removed or felled, but there were 70,158 planted.

But Green Party councillor Ben Crystal warned against only looking at numbers.

He accepted that the numbers planted did look ‘positive’, but he said that where there was a dense planting on embankments only a proportion of those become fully grown.

And Cllr Giles-Medhurst stressed that – excluding the tree planting projects on the A120, A602 and the New River Bridge – over the three years there had been a ‘deficit’ of 3455 trees.

During the debate, Cllr Paula Hiscocks welcomed the council’s plans to plant 3200 trees as part of the Queens Green Canopy, as well as the council’s commitment to replace trees that had grown too large.

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The cabinet panel did not vote on Cllr Hale’s motion but did formally endorse the council’s approach to tree and biodiversity strategies.

Following an amendment by Cllr Stephen Giles-Medurst, it was agreed that details of all ‘vacant’ sites – where the county council intends to replant – would be provided to county councillors.

And the cabinet panel formally supported the council’s commitment to replace trees removed and undertook to make up ‘where possible’ the ‘deficit’ of trees identified.