Proud Headline Sponsor for TPBE3
Trees, People and the Built Environment 3
As a proud headline sponsor [along with (TEP) The Environment Partnership] of this well established and prestigious event, I had the privilege to meet a whole host of industry experts over the two-day conference period whilst representing GreenBlue Urban. What struck me was the sheer diversity of attendees. There was a good proportion of officers from Local Authorities, committed to ensuring that trees would thrive in their area. It was clear that the industry as a whole is replete with innovators and creators – browsing around the exhibitor stands, looking at everything from mapping tools to underground solutions, there is no danger that we will stagnate anytime soon!
There are going to be more and more tools out there to help local authorities and community groups, as well as the private sector, map their canopy cover. The talk by Ian Hanou of Plan-It Geo illustrated just how many different software tools are available to deliver urban forestry projects at community scale and on larger schemes. What we mustn’t forget, as Hanou said, is that
“urban and community forestry is about people, then trees”;
we have to remember what we are in this for.
Dr Keiron Doick (Forest Research, UK), made the compelling case that establishing a baseline and setting targets to improve outcomes from increasing canopy cover will be of vital importance for the future of urban forestry in the UK, Europe and further afield.
Thematic Links and the Importance of Transport and Health
Ian Buchanan (Manager, Natural Heritage and Forestry, Regional Municipality of York, Canada) helpfully reminded us that ‘parking’ used to be associated with providing trees and parks not car spaces – oh how things have changed! It is often difficult to convince those in highways departments and civil engineering professions that trees are not the nemesis. As conference chair Professor Alan Simson pointed out,
“Our environment is changing fast and we all need to respond and relate to it”.
This means working with the pace of development and using policy tools to achieve results. We heard from Laura Emmerson (WSP/Parsons Brinckerhof) how it is governance models that really need to be changed to integrate trees more successfully into highways policies. From my experience of working with local authorities, it is policy change that provides the key to the future improvement of our tree stock in and around transport infrastructure.
The mental and physical health of citizens, particularly our children, was the subject of the second day of conference proceedings. Hearing from public health professionals and medical practitioners, such as Dr Ann Marie Connolly (Public Health England) and Dr Matilda van den Bosch (Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia Canada), it became clear that a connection between health outcomes and increasing canopy cover must be made more clear in UK planning policy. The therapeutic value of trees, especially in some of the most polluted cities, cannot be underestimated, as was demonstrated in the paper by Professor Jinglan Liu (Beijing Forestry University).
Was there a Political Lesson to Take-Away?
There were a multitude of messages and ‘calls to action’ that we really need to collectively embed within the culture of all our respective organisations. As Mike Westley from Westley Design emphasised: We must all be educators and have an impact on the culture of our local area to deliver quality green infrastructure. There is a growing evidence base out there to support a tree planting agenda; the industry needs to gain more political traction to make this a reality. As Professor Miles Tight (University of Birmingham) said, at the beginning of conference, the utopian vision is achievable. While talking to Professor Peter Duinker (Dalhousie University, Canada), one of the session speakers, we both agreed that in the UK, the biggest challenge practitioners face are the multiple tiers of government, and there is often a lack of clarity as to which key decision makers need to be engaged with and at what stage. Perhaps this could be the focus of TPBE4?