To consider the report and presentation of the Director of Strategy and Resources which provides a review of work undertaken linked to woodland creation on Leeds City Council land.
The Committee received a report and presentation providing an update on tree planting initiatives undertaken by the Woodland Creation Team in response to the 2019 Climate Emergency Declaration which set a target of achieving net zero emissions for the city by 2030 which woodland creation and tree planting will contribute towards.
Tony Stringwell, Parks Operations Manager provided the Committee with a presentation on the following key issues:
· In February 2020 funding and commitment made to the creation of 50 hectares of woodland tree canopy over 25 years, which equates to 5.8 million trees.
· Trees are grown in the Arium, the LCC Horticultural Glasshouse, which provides opportunity for officers to upskill to deliver the initiative and for trainees to test and acquire skills. The team is also considering how the Arium could be used to support tree growth and self sufficiency.
· Public engagement and volunteer involvement was key to achieving the target, with 800 volunteers registered to support the tree planting initiatives.
· In 2020 a commitment was made to the White Rose Forest as a strategic partnership to provide tree canopy right across the city region.
· 74 sites had been planted in Year 1 of the initiative, 82 in Year 2, 73 in Year 3. For the 2023/24 tree planting season, 27 whip planting sites and 54 standard tree sites had been identified.
· The team revisits and reviews sites previously delivered to ensure the trees are thriving and to learn lessons from sites which have been successful and those which have failed.
· The team also works with the Trees 4 Streets charity and 49 expressions of interest have been received.
During discussions the following issues were considered:
· The need to ensure consultation with Ward and Parish/Town Councillors – One Member reported that Rawdon Littlemoor had been presented as a suitable site, however this site had Village Green status. Members noted that consultation with them was key in identifying sites and their support for identified sites was sought, particularly in assisting with providing information to residents and getting to the position where residents were comfortable with the proposals in their area.
· The need to be aware of other works which may impact on the tree initiative – One Member reported that decarbonisation works at a Leisure Centre had resulted in whips being removed.
· The preference for developing smaller sites in some areas. The challenge of identifying suitable sites to create urban woodland areas was acknowledged. The team was working with LCC Asset Management to identify sites and review the LCC agricultural portfolio as well.
· Consideration of the safety of women and girls in greenspaces and parks and whether the team could link with the work undertaken by the Combined Authority women’s safety. The Committee received assurance that those concerns were being factored in to the parks and greenspace strategy. Collaboration work between the LCC teams working on that agenda will aim to mitigate the feelings of claustrophobia and vulnerability from tree canopy in greenspaces and parks and to also maintain sightlines.
· The importance of acknowledging that some sites had failed and developing plans to address that, learning from successful and failing sites, and the failure rate across the city. The Committee heard that the team are committed to ensuring that the woodlands do establish, and continually revisit sites to learn from successes and failures but it was acknowledged that some sites will experience higher levels of failure than others for a variety of reasons.
· Whips and standard trees are planted across the city; using whips to establish woodlands is industry best practice and one Member requested information be provided on an area of successful planting so the Committee could see an area of best practice.
· The Committee received assurance that the 25 year target for woodland creation would be met – woodland takes three years to establish, the key is identifying land and reviewing planting undertaken.
· Risks to delivering sites – as the initiative continues, it will become more difficult to identify suitable sites. The initial round of sites focussed on sites owned or in the control of LCC, including land not vested in Parks & Greenspace and assets rented out for grazing, or land under control of Housing Services, with a request for private landowners to come forward with any sites they may be willing to utilise for woodland creation. The Committee noted that the White Rose Forest included 36 Ha of tree planting on non-LCC land. The Committee also noted that work with Asset Management was ongoing and would take into consideration land used for or earmarked for agriculture land/tenancies and solar farms. The team would also look to improve marginal gains, such as hedgerow planting and extending existing hedgerows and link with large scale works such as the East Leeds Orbital Road where extensive tree planting had been achieved.
· Working with local groups – One Member suggested liaising with local groups, such as the Chevin Running Club, who were keen to support/fund tree planting rather than provide participants with running vests. Additionally, linking into the Climate Action Leeds Hubs was suggested to establish additional volunteers for the initiative.
In conclusion, the Chair thanked Tony for his presentation and reiterated the request for Members support in identifying tree planting sites in their wards and ways to engage with residents in the localities in a way that constituents find useful.
RECOMMENDED - To note the update and associated presentation on the Woodland Creation Initiative.