Urban Tree Planting in Thanet

FAO_SimoneBorelli_web

(Some stock urban tree imagery from the FAO. Don’t scoff…)

I’d love to see more trees in Thanet.

I know that I’m not alone in wanting a greener isle. At most public meetings I’ve been to in Thanet over the years, at some point the issue of urban trees will come up.

(The Isle falls in the UK’s bottom 10 areas for tree cover, according to a 2014 survey).

So, why haven’t more trees been planted? It may be lack of will and interest.

But it may also be that urban tree planting tends to fall into Kent County Council (KCC)’s jurisdiction and the council makes it formidably expensive.

KCC wants £225 to plant a single tree in “grass verge” and double that – a fat £500 – to plant a single tree in a footpath. “The cost”, the council says, “includes a weld mesh cage, watering and guarantee for one year.” (A weld mesh cage costs £15.00).

If my experience of local government is anything to go by, doing things by the book is vital, lest men and women in yellow jackets – with clipboards to the left of them and chainsaws to the right – descend from the skies as if by magic.

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Where there’s a will there’s a way though.

For all its ongoing transformation, the Isle of Thanet struggles on a number of indices. High rates of poverty, the highest crime rates in the county and health inequality are among the complex challenges being tackled in the area.

Planting more trees should, by contrast, be an easy win. And the benefits of more urban trees go far beyond aesthetics, better air quality and support of biodiversity.

A recent report in the prestigious science journal Nature found that (controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors) having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardio-metabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000.

Yup, trees are good for your heart.

What else?

Exposure to urban greenspaces promote mental health6,7, reduce non-accidental mortality8, reduce physician assessed-morbidity9, reduce income-related health inequality’s effect on morbidity10, reduce blood pressure and stress levels11,12, reduce sedentary leisure time13, as well as promoting physical activity14,15. In addition, greenspace may enhance psychological and cardio-vascular benefits of physical activity12. Urban trees improve air quality1,2, reduce cooling and heating energy use3, and make urban environments aesthetically more preferable4,5.

To sum up, I’d like to organise a public meeting with others interested in making a real push on urban greening in Thanet in January. (Perhaps working with groups like A Better Cliftonville? My immediate focus is my neighbourhood!)

Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved, have any thoughts, and we’ll arrange a time, date and an action plan. It may be possible to sit down sooner.

I’ve already asked if KCC can get those costs down/put the work out to tender where it needs to be specialist (pavements) and/or let community groups do it elsewhere.

If we could get sign-off and a less eye-watering price point, we could crowdfund/fundraise for a really substantial urban tree-planting campaign.

Drop me a line if you want to be involved.

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