I have had an increasing number of queries recently about trees, and specifically about street trees. I think there are probably a few reasons for this. The first being that in general Forest Gate residents do love greening, and trees (although see my caveat at the end of this post!). Another being an overall increased concern about the environment, and about air quality, and an interest in creating pleasant streets that are nice places to be in. I was particularly interested to read online last year some information about how important street trees are for their cooling effect on our increasingly hot city streets, and how much more tree-lined – and thereby cooler – your street is likely to be if you live in a more affluent part of London.
I think another reason for the sudden burgeoning interest is that to be honest, our street trees in Newham have been neglected for some considerable time. Now we have brought our Greenspace function back in house, we have employed specific people to look after the trees, and work on pollarding, pruning, and removing dead trees is being done. This is work that was not done at all for a long time. The visual effect of this necessary work can be a bit brutal and even a bit shocking, hence some of the enquiries I’ve had.
I didn’t want to be just reactive, sending off details one by one, so I tried to step back a bit and think about what more I could do across the ward to help. So I contacted the relevant officers, and James Asser who is the cabinet lead for this area, to flag up how keen Forest Gate North residents are for more street trees. I also, in pre-Covid times, had a coffee with the Tree Officer to understand more about his role, and how I could support it.
I then had an exploratory bike ride across the ward, specifically looking out for roads that had no street trees where there might be space for some. I should emphasise that this was rather speculative! I wasn’t placing orders for trees, more thinking that if I could identify potential places now, then it would be useful for us to have this information to hand, in case funding or the possibility of funding was identified later on.
I also did a quick call-out on twitter asking residents to send me details of empty tree pits. That is, not spaces on the pavement where a tree theoretically might go, but an empty hole or square in the pavement where a tree clearly WAS, but is no longer. I had a useful tip from officers, which is obvious when you think about it, that it’s much easier to fill empty tree pits as there will be no utilities / pipework / electrics in that space to worry about, which is a significant barrier to planting new trees.
The reason for all this rambling was to share that after collecting together a list of empty tree pits, I then got an update back from officers and James, letting me know what was happening at each of them, and I thought I’d share that here. I think some of these have actually been planted in the time between my getting this update and publishing the post. Do let me know if so, and if you’re on twitter please take a picture and tag me in it, as I’d love to have updates.
Empty tree pits
Between 86/88 Maryland Square – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks
94/92 Maryland Square – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks
Cnr Maryland Sq and Maryland Pk nr At Francis School – Already on this year’s list as well as 4 others in Mary. Sq.
Corner of Maryland Sq and Maryland Pk – Already on this year’s list
10 Albert Square – Already on this year’s list
40 Forest Lane – Already on this year’s list
100 Hatfield Road – Added to list for planting
102 Gurney Road – Added to list for planting.
Dimond Close, E7 (stow.dared.slurs) This is housing land and no budget allocated yet for planting
93 Buxton Road – Already on this year’s list
40 St James Road – Already on this year’s list
Side of 75 Godwin – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks
6 Barwick Road – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks
Just a couple of things to add to this. First is that not everyone likes trees. I have in the past had some casework from residents annoyed about sap or leaves falling on their cars or gardens. I’ve had much more from people wanting more trees, but this is just worth knowing. It’s not possible to please everyone.
Also that at the moment there isn’t really a good system to flag missing or damaged trees. I know that we want to create one. But in the meantime, if you see an empty tree pit that is not on this list, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and include the road, the house number nearest to it, and if possible the three words that describe the location exactly on the rather brilliant what 3 words app / site.