Let’s plant in the empty tree pits

There is a prospect of some new trees to be planted in and around King Street, financed by Section 106 money from the (ugly) 271-281 King Street scheme, replacing the (also ugly) buildings that were there before.

Mark Waters, Arboricultural Officer, emails me to say:

“I have looked at the footway this morning with a cable detection tool and there may be scope for planting up to six trees along the eastern footway of Beavor Lane adjacent to and south of the new development, and possibly two more in the footway build outs on the western side of the road at the junction with Chambon Place.

“We will have to consult service plans and excavate trial tree pits to ensure there are no underground services or other obstructions to planting.

 “As much of the footway is still covered by containers and hoarding we will carry out this work in the late summer/autumn and hopefully plant any new trees during next winter’s planting programme.”

But surely the £14,000 should pay for more than eight trees. I made further enquiries and was sent this response:

Dear Councillor Phibbs,

brecontree1I have consulted my arboricultural colleagues and they advise that the costs of tree planting have significantly increased in recent years.

They say that they used to allow residents to sponsor new tree planting for a contribution of £250 per tree, and that contributed to around half of the actual cost (which included a nominal two hours of officer time per tree.)

However, they say that the actual costs of excavating tree pits (which typically have a failure rate of 50% so, on average, two trial pits are needed to be excavated for each successful planting ), purchasing trees and planting them (although we will have a new treework contract next winter so costs will probably increase) now amount to over £500 per tree, without any officer time.

According to the arboricultural officers’ records the average officer time spent on each new planting site, which includes site visits, detailed service checks in the office, tree selection, planting and maintenance contract monitoring, etc amounts to around five officer hours per tree. Associated kerb and pavement works, including pit surfacing where appropriate, increase the costs further.

IMG_1006They therefore estimate (for 2016/17) that each successfully planted tree would cost approx. £1000 in total.

I am advised that the basic contract cost of excavating a standard 600mm x 600mm tree pit is £162; but in the case of Beavor Lane where two pits may need to be 1000mm x1000mm as they are being excavated through the former road surface under pavement build-outs (so the volume is four times greater) the cost of one pit alone would be four times greater.

Having said all of this, our arboricultural colleagues say that, where possible, they will try to use any surplus funds to carry out further tree planting in the vicinity of the development i.e. in surrounding streets.

Catherine Smyth
Team Leader Planning Applications

So even accepting those costings we are due another six trees on sites yet to identified.

I after some months after I complained about an empty tree pit on the Bayonne Estate has now had a new tree planted in it. This has now been replanted. (See before and after pictures above). Given the figures in Catherine’s email it is obviously a much lower cost to ensure that the existing tree pits have trees growing in them rather than being left empty. So do let me know of any empty tree pits.

Anyway a small victory once again prompting me to quote Teddy Kennedy:

“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

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