Babergh and Mid Suffolk used the National Tree Map to establish tree canopy cover across both predominantly rural districts, allowing them to understand tree cover to ward level and spatially, along with the value of benefits trees provide us with.
We used the National Tree Map to establish tree canopy cover across both predominantly rural districts. This allowed us to understand tree cover to ward level and spatially, along with the value of benefits trees provide us with.
We then used a range of available data to identify both where there is potential space for new tree planting, and where new planting would provide maximum benefits to the environment.
All information obtained from both reports will be made freely available to the public. Already, we can see uses of the information beyond the original aims.
We had no clear picture of what tree cover our districts had, nor how much trees contributed to our environment. Consequently, there was risk that trees were undervalued within the districts.
Once we understood this, we found tree cover is well below the national average. To change this, we needed to understand where we could plant more trees, and where best to focus efforts.
The Tree Canopy Cover Survey provided a clear picture of what cover we had, where it is and how much it contributes to the environment (carbon storage and sequestration, rainwater attenuation, heat moderation and air filtration).
The Tree Planting Strategy identifies space that could be used for new tree planting. It then identifies which areas would be best to plant new trees, based upon a range of weighted criteria, to produce the greatest benefits to the environment. This then allows us to prioritise our efforts on these locations, making best use of limited resources.
The strategy also helps us to understand what to plant to provide greatest benefits.
The prioritisation of planting spaces is already helping us decide where to plant. This has supported a successful application under the Local Authority Tree Fund to plant over 1,800 trees with the grant awarded valued at £50,000, completed this winter.
Elsewhere, the planting strategy is contributing to the design of a new public open space, supporting a local school to encourage more tree planting in their parish, and helping to justify new street tree planting on highway land.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The information resulting from both studies is being made freely available to help parishes, voluntary organisations, environmental bodies and other local authorities make decisions on new tree planting.
The information also has benefits in decision making for green infrastructure, biodiversity net gain and the developing Local Nature Recovery Strategy.
The Tree Planting Strategy will work alongside other emerging strategies for biodiversity and climate resilience.
Given the benefit of hindsight, there are a number of things that could be done differently to improve the strategy.
The selection of sites on which planting could take place has thrown up anomalies. Some areas are completely unsuitable for planting (one floods at high tide), whilst others that seem obvious are missed off due to the categorisation of the land. Some refinement of the screening process would help reduce these.
The planting strategy excluded all class 3 agricultural land and higher, with only classes 4 and 5 included. Whilst there is good justification for this, in some cases it meant areas that are class 4 but clearly cannot be used for cultivation due to flooding, for example, are excluded. Again, some refinement of the screening process may help with this.
No weighting was given to any habitat designations either on the plantable space or adjacent. Given the value of this to BNG and LNRS, this could be a useful additional criterion, to avoid planting on habitat of importance, and to give weight to planting that increased connectivity.
Biodiversity Project Manager