Bridgwater Town Council Leaders sat around a table with residents and partners from Somerset and Sedgemoor Councils this week and thrashed out an agreement to make a tree replacement policy a reality. The current tree crisis came about when 5 cherry trees at Bridgwater’s Hamp Green Rise , owned by Somerset, were declared unsafe due to disease and were condemned. Residents opposed the decision and brought their concerns to Town Councils ‘Town Development Forum’. It came to light that cash-strapped Somerset had absolutely no policy to replace trees and no funds in place either. District contractors, Clean Surroundings, were tasked with the removal of the trees but with no funds the street would be bereft. The Town Council stepped in, took the lead and approved a Tree Replacement Policy which included setting up a fund to respond to trees under threat in the town.
Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) said “Town Council have agreed to set up an arms length charity with ourselves as the sole trustees. With this we can bid for funds, act as a focus for crowd funding and add our own money in to launch the project in the first place. More than this though we needed an arrangement with our partners. At the meeting this week Sedgemoor agreed to provide the labour free as their contribution and residents agreed to form a support group to deal with maintenance until they were established after which point Somerset agreed that they would accept liability thereafter. We will use Hamp Green Rise as a test case to see if this formula works and then the fund will be open across the Town wherever trees are threatened. We are aware of cases in Wind Down Close and in Woodbury Road at the moment and there will doubtless be more.”
7% Canopy Cover is a scandal
Deputy Council Leader Cllr Kathy Pearce said “Town Council has stepped in and built up a partnership to deal with what is clearly a major failing by County. Bridgwater has only a 7% canopy cover whereas the expected cover should be some 25%. This is an unacceptable risk to the health of residents. It seems to be the case that tree cover is greater in richer areas and that’s not good enough. Everybody needs to benefit from the protection to our environment that a canopy cover provides and even more so during this climate emergency. “
The Green Fightback starts here
Cllr Smedley added “The next thing that will happen is the 5 diseased trees will come down on Hamp Green Rise. Then on September 11th our Finance Executive will vote on the amount of support we will get and the 5 trees will be replaced but there will also be the potential for 10 trees going in there. With the appalling lack of tree cover provided to this town in the past we need to be planting at least 2 trees for every one fallen. The green fightback starts here.”
The next Bridgwater Town Council Climate Change Forum will be held at the Town Hall on Thursday 15th August at 7pm. Everyone is invited. An update on the Tree Replacement policy will be given at this meeting