'Tree champion' appointed to curb felling of street trees and boost planting rates

Picture by PA.
Picture by PA.

A "tree champion" has been appointed to prevent unnecessary felling of street trees and boost planting rates in the UK.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove made the appointment as part of the pledges in the Government's 25-year environment plan.

It comes after ire over tree-felling in Sunderland and South Tyneside, as well as the high-profile controversy over a felling programme in Sheffield which made headlines around the country.

Protestors were up in arms in Sunderland after trees were cut down near the city's seafront earlier this year.

And campaigners in South Tyneside recently set up the South Tyneside Tree Action Group (STTAG) in response to tree fellings in the borough.

Campaigners have also warned that tree-planting in England is at its lowest rate for a generation, while the loss of existing woodland is happening at an accelerated rate due to weak planning laws.

Sir William Worsley, who is chairman of the National Forest Company which oversees the National Forest, has been appointed to support Government promises to plant 11 million trees, plus a further one million in towns and cities.

It is hoped he will bring together mayors, city leaders and local government to prevent the unnecessary felling of street trees, while also backing the introduction of a new duty for councils to properly consult communities before cutting down trees.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "We have a responsibility to make sure the next generation inherit the woodlands, forests and trees they deserve.

"We are beginning to see good progress in growing tree cover, but we need to go further - and faster.

"I'm confident Sir William Worsley will bring the expertise and vision required to rapidly drive forward planting rates and prevent street trees being felled."

Sir William said: "Trees and woods are an important part of my life, as they are to local communities.

"They transform our landscapes, improve our health and well-being and help grow the economy.

"I look forward to working with stakeholders and local authorities to promote these benefits and grow the country's woodland cover."