Urban Tree Planting in City of Wolverhampton Council

The City of Wolverhampton is a metropolitan authority in the West Midlands with a population of around 260,000. It is a densely populated city with a limited amount of open space and struggled to accommodate tree planting on the scale required by many funding schemes.


Introduction

The City of Wolverhampton is a metropolitan authority in the West Midlands with a population of around 260,000. It is a densely populated city with a limited amount of open space and struggled to accommodate tree planting on the scale required by many funding schemes. The Woodland Trust’s Emergency Tree Fund provided the flexibility to fund block planting of native trees on a limited scale around the city, as well as fencing and maintenance.

The challenge

To accommodate urban tree planting in a city with limited open space, high levels of deprivation and a limited budget for maintenance. 

The solution

To plant a total of 10 hectares of native woodland in blocks of between 0.1 and 2 hectares on approximately 10 sites around the city, with protective fencing to allow the woodland to become established.   

The impact

To increase tree cover in parts of the city with higher levels of deprivation and lower tree cover. The longer-term aim is to provide consequent benefits for flood alleviation, urban cooling, promoting biodiversity, improving amenity value, promoting physical activity and improving mental health.  

How is the new approach being sustained?

The council chose to apply for the Emergency Tree Fund partly because it allowed for a greater element of funding for maintenance than other funds which have been considered; this will help with short term maintenance of the planting while it becomes established. In the longer term, tree planting and maintenance have moved higher up the council’s agenda since the declaration of a Climate Emergency in July 2019 and the adoption of the council’s Tree and Woodland Strategy in January 2020.  This has resulted in tree maintenance being treated as a growth item which will support maintenance of the sites in the medium to long term.

Lessons learned

The City Council has learnt a number of lessons from this initiative.  

1. Finding sufficient sites to plant even a modest 10 hectares of woodland was harder than anticipated. This was due to the limited number and size of sites, the need to consider the different uses made of them, the need to protect certain habitats and issues such as perceived individual personal safety. 

2. Planning the planting, securing the trees and appointing contractors took longer than anticipated which led to a delay in implementation and completion of the project. This required some changes to project implementation, although it was still completed within the planned planting season. 

3. Engaging the wider community through consultation on the proposed planting areas and in publicising the proposals once approved proved difficult and would have benefitted from more time and resource. Despite the overwhelming support from councillors and the public for the planting, some negative comments and complaints were received from members of the public resulting in the redesign of one scheme while work was in progress. 

4. Despite the enthusiasm for community planting, events proved hard to organise and were over ambitious in their scale. The lessons learnt are firstly that closer involvement with individual community groups to plan events builds a partnership and works better than inviting them to predetermined events.  Secondly that volunteers generally have limited capacity to plant and sessions should be limited in length and in numbers of trees to be planted. 

5. Theft and vandalism of trees and fencing has proved far more serious than anticipated. This has resulted in the abandonment of some planting areas and will result in unanticipated costs to the council for replacement and relocation of trees and fencing. 

Councillor Steve Evans, cabinet member for city environment and climate change at City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “As a council we are taking our commitment to climate change very seriously and are exploring a variety of ways to make improvements for our residents.  

“One of these is through planting more trees and we’ve enjoyed some great community planting days in the city, involving members of the Woodland Trust, volunteers, schoolchildren, faith groups and local residents.  

“I’m delighted that our partnership with the Woodland Trust is helping us as we work to provide a cleaner, greener city for many generations to come.” 

Further information

Contact

Ric Bravery, Strategic Health Lead, City of Wolverhampton Council Tel: 07773 189238 Email: Ric.Bravery@wolverhampton.gov.uk