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Trees and woodland strategy lauded by campaign groups

Environmental and conservation groups from all over the country have warmly welcomed the launch of Wirral Council’s comprehensive new strategy for managing trees and woodland in the borough for the next 10 years and beyond.

Many of these groups have been integral partners in the development of the strategy, which not only incorporates ambitious plans for doubling tree canopy cover in Wirral over time, it also details a more robust plan for managing and inspecting all trees that the council is responsible for.

It further makes a commitment to replace any tree in the area that has to be felled for public safety reasons with at least two more.

Groups, including the Tree Council and local organisations, have come together under the umbrella banner of ‘Wirral Initiative on Trees’ to contribute to and give their endorsement for the final Tree Strategy. Nationally, Friends of the Earth and DEFRA have also cited Wirral’s Tree Strategy as a visionary strategy and national exemplar for other authorities to follow.

Cllr Liz Grey, Wirral Council Cabinet member for Environment, said: “I am delighted to launch this detailed, wide-reaching strategy – the first time Wirral has had such a comprehensive plan.

“Everyone agrees that planting more and more trees can only be a good thing for the environment and for people’s health and wellbeing. Exactly one year on from declaring a Climate Emergency in Wirral, our commitment to planting is a big part of what we’re doing as a council in response.

“But the strategy is about much more than just planting trees; it’s about investing in expertise, planting the right trees, in the right place; bringing in staff who will help us to monitor and inspect all our trees and advise on the best course of action, should a risk be identified.”

Trees are living things so it is inevitable that they can become diseased and die and, where they are situated where people pass by or visit, they can pose a risk to people as well as other trees.

Wirral Council has a commitment to only fell trees as a last resort where there is a clear safety risk and the strategy provides a commitment that where trees do have to be felled, they will be replaced by at least two more. It also commits the council to communicating better with people about the reasons why we make particular decisions around trees.

The close working arrangements developed during the course of putting the strategy together will be built upon further, with partners and other external specialists engaged to ensure that the work being done in Wirral is contributing to wider initiatives and aims.

This will partly be achieved through the creation of an Overview and Advisory Board made up of Council representatives and partners to monitor progress against the Strategy’s objectives and action plan.

Cllr Grey adds: “We will work more closely with all our partners, including Mersey Forest and we will be an integral part of the development of the Mersey Community Forest and the Great Northern Forest with the Woodland Trust. We will work with local, regional and national stakeholders to share best practice and knowledge around trees.”

Included in the strategy is a recognition that while not all trees in the borough are the council’s responsibility, the same checks and protections should extend to trees on private land. To that end, the Council-wide Enforcement Policy has been reviewed with a commitment to investigating all allegations of offences relating to trees and ensure appropriate action is taken whenever necessary.

Danny Gross, a Trees Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "Wirral Council has created a visionary and pragmatic strategy for expanding trees, woodlands and hedgerows. Friends of the Earth strongly supports the ambition to double tree cover through tree planting and natural regeneration, alongside practical initiatives to protect existing trees.”

What the partners say…

  • “In the work towards a new National Strategy on trees, DEFRA and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have acknowledged the contribution of Wirral Council in creating a sustainable strategy for Trees, Woodland and Hedgerows, in a rare partnership with local experts, environment, conservation, wildlife, civic amenity, tree wardens and park friends/green spaces groups.” - Wirral Initiative on Trees
  • “We are delighted to have been part of the development of the Wirral Tree Strategy. The Strategy has been created by a unique partnership between the local authority, Tree Wardens and other community partners, and local and national tree organisations. It sets a model for the development of other tree strategies and will be a valuable contribution to thinking about national tree policies. We look forward to working with all the partners in the future as the strategy is used to create a tree rich environment for the people and wildlife of the Wirral." – The Tree Council
  • “Wirral Wildlife welcomes the Wirral Tree Strategy and supports its aims and objectives. We expect that it will lead to better management and retention of our existing trees, and guide sensible future tree planting and natural regeneration. We will continue to work with Wirral Borough Council and our colleagues in local organisations to help implement this strategy.” – Wirral Wildlife
  • "Trees, hedgerows and woodlands are vital elements in Wirral's landscape, but it's so easy to take them for granted, ignoring the threats, challenges, gaps and opportunities. Tree Wardens want more people to enjoy, know and care about trees, to find an active way to be stewards of trees for the future and contribute to the protection of environment, wildlife and well-being. We thank our partners in WiT for helping this to happen, the Borough of Wirral for putting ideas into action and friends at the Tree Council, Forest Research & DEFRA for advising, identifying and sharing good practice in Wirral's Strategy to National policies.” - Wirral Tree Wardens
  • “We welcome the Wirral Tree, Hedgerow and Woodland Strategy.  We are pleased that the Strategy provides opportunities for volunteers and local communities to focus on specific aspects of Wirral’s environment. Parks and Green Spaces have an important role in keeping Wirral ‘green’ and are often the sites of unusual or rare trees;  Friends Groups can work with the Strategy to ensure that Wirral’s parks and green spaces continue to protect and plant trees, hedges and woodlands, that can survive and flourish in a challenging future climate.” - The Friends of Wirral Parks Forum
  • “The Wirral Society wishes to support the new Wirral Tree Strategy and wish to express thanks to those who have put in such a great deal of time and effort to create such a meaningful document.  What the document recommends and hopes for is completely in line with the policy and aims of this Society by protecting and enhancing the Wirral peninsula.” – The Wirral Society
  • “Our group aims to advance the education of the public about the preservation of our world’s natural environment, ecological sustainability, natural resource conservation, waste minimisation, recycling and the principles of fair trade, within Wirral and the surrounding area. We welcome and support the Wirral Tree Strategy as a way of communicating the importance of trees for our natural environment, for ecological sustainability as well as for our health and economic benefits. The tree strategy is an informative guide as to how everyone can support tree planting and tree care.  It heralds a perfect opportunity to leave a legacy of beautiful, valued trees for future generations.” - Wirral Environmental Network
  • “We welcome the Wirral Tree Strategy and support its aims and objectives. We expect that it will lead to better management and retention of our existing trees and guide sensible future tree planting and natural regeneration. We are particularly happy to see its recognition of the crucial role tree preservation orders play in Wirral’s 26 conservation areas. We also support the development of a Wirral wide tree strategy as a major contributor to protecting and enhancing the concept of a greener Wirral. We will continue to work with Wirral Borough Council and our colleagues in local organisations to help implement this strategy.” - Conservation Areas Wirral
  • “Wirral Countryside Volunteers are delighted that the strategy includes Wirral's hedgerows, which make such a contribution to the environment, landscape and wildlife of Wirral. We look forward to working with like-minded organisations and sympathetic landowners to practically maintain and extend the hedgerow network and to increase the tree cover within Wirral.” – Wirral Countryside Volunteers
  • One supporter from West Kirby added an individual endorsement: "Good reading - lovely to hear from you, bringing in the trees to my lounge. They have been a blessing to me whilst in lockdown watching the beech in my community garden where I live: budding, then vibrant green leaves appear daily slowly but surely. The birds have their insects; pigeons roost, the odd spotted Woodpecker appears, even a hawk or two. These trees aren’t my possessions, they are free and step in time to the rhythm of nature."