What street trees should we plant in our borough?

Three new trees at corner of Ancill Close and Crefeld Close. Alder, birch and unknown. Joining the chestnut tree planted in 2012

I was interested to see the report of the Hammersmith and Fulham Biodiversity Commission which was presented earlier this week.

The trouble with these Resident Commissions is that they produce long lists of proposals (often for bodies other than Hammersmith and Fulham Council to pursue). The Council then accepts all of them. There is much mutual congratulation. Then nothing actually happens.

That would be a pity with this report.

Of course you need to scroll down through the gush and the mush and the virtue signalling – eg “appoint a permanent Ecology Officer”  (groan).  It is necessary not to be provoked by undeserved praise for the European Union – which has been a complete disaster for the environment.

Then there is the predictable weakness of a committee to promise anything terribly bold. For instance where is the call for a cull of the grey squirrels?

That all sounds rather rude to the Commissioners – Morag Carmichael, Professor Derek Clements-Croome, Cathy Maund, Vanessa Hampton, Louise Barton, John Goodier, Moya O’Hara, Dr Nathalie Mahieu and Alex Laird. On the contrary I  have considerable admiration for what they have done and would be sorry to see the relevant aspects of their report ignored. There are several important, practical, proposals which I am keen to see pursued. They are a group of residents with formidable collective expertise who have put in considerable (unpaid) effort to produce a formidable piece of work.

For instance with regard to street trees they say:

“Significant weight should be given to the biodiversity aspect of trees in all planting situations. This means, for example, more oaks, willows, silver birches, pink/white hawthorn, rowan and alders and fewer exotic trees or double-flowered cherries in future planting.”

I have asked the Council’s Principal Arboricultural Officer for a response.

He says:

“The main criteria we use for selection of species for planting on street trees is set out in our policy guidelines which are published on the council’s website. You can access this from the links in the  “Trees in Public Places” page which is in the “Environment” section. The main points are outlined below:
 1. Trees should be of such size that they do not cause undue light restriction,encroachment or subsidence problems.   

2. Trees with excessively large, sticky or prolific fruits should be avoided wherever they are likely to cause a nuisance.

3. Trees with poisonous fruits, bark or wood should be avoided.

4. Hazardous trees, e.g. trees with large spines on the trunk, or which are known to shed branches easily should be avoided.

Assuming the above are satisfied we would want to give preference to species that provide bio-diversity and habitat benefits ideally help improve air quality.

We already plant significant numbers of Birch, and Rowan and quite a few Hawthorns. The scope for larger species like Oak is limited and Willows are very unlikely to be suitable for our narrow streets. Unfortunately species that encourage wildlife tend to be “dirty” trees and generate more complaints from residents about mess or insects .

Flowering Cherry and Blossom trees are the most commonly requested by residents and it is often an uphill struggle to persuade them to have something more biodiversity friendly.”

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “What street trees should we plant in our borough?

  1. What about ginkgo? Fantastic street tree. Pollution and drought tolerant. produce no pollen and look beautiful, especially in autumn. Who cares if they are originally from China? Also there are entire streets in central London planted with olive trees, and they look good all year round.

    Let’s think about creating great looking streets, of which Hammersmith is not oversupplied, as well as all the worthy biodiversity stuff.

  2. An Indian bean tree adorns the pavement at the junction of Dalling Rd and Brackenbury Rd. It is a magnificent sight. This tree needs a bit of space, but not too much. Recommended.

  3. Pingback: How big should hedges be? – Hammersmith and Fulham Forum

  4. The Arboricultural officer’s criteria seems good which takes account of subsidence etc – looking forward to more trees.

  5. I do not believe we have nearly enough variety of trees planted, along the pavements, in Hammersmith. I am thinking particularly of the Birch of which 16 have been planted in the pavement between Auriol Road to opposite Olympia, as well as in other parts of the borough. This species is known to be detrimental because of its pollen to 25% of people who are suffering from asthma, hayfever and other chest infections of which there are 25% of the population. When bringing this to the attention of the arboricultural department, the reply was “yes I know but the birch and plane tree are my favourites”. Species that could be planted causing few if any problems are Magnolia grandiflora, many Acers are slow growing and have wonderful autumnal colours such as A.saccharum, A.brilliantissimum, A.capillipes particularly for its bark and Koelreuteria coral sun – good autumn colour. May I suggest that we take notice of Kensington’s planting which has a wide range of interesting trees.

    Thinking of bird life which is not great in Hammersmith why not a few fruit bearing trees which is essential to them. How many people have we seen slipping and tumbling on fallen autumnal fruit which is the excuse for not planting them?

    Valerie Scriven

    • Thanks Valerie, I just want to echo your comment about Kensington being more adventurous in its tree planting schemes..In fact many London boroughs do significantly better than us; I can think of striking and beautiful planting schemes I have seen recently in Westminster, Lambeth and Southwark as well.

      Let’s hope we can open our minds here in H&F to the wonderful possibilities out there.

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