On 2nd March 2020 the Association of Tree Officers (ATO) joined a workshop in London to discuss draft guidance for local authorities in relation to the forthcoming legislation in the Environment Bill 2019-21 concerning the duty to consult on the removal of street trees, and creating local Tree and Woodland Frameworks.
ATO Directors Barbara Milne and Alistair Smith attended to represent the organisation.
Other representation at the meeting included the London Tree Officers Association, Trees and Design Action Group, Woodland Trust and the Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee. A similar session also took place in Birmingham on 25th February 2020.
Duty to Consult on the removal of street trees
Detailed discussion took place on the wording of the Bill itself, in particular in relation to the limitations of the exemptions in Bill, and also on the guidance, presented at the meeting, which has been drafted in order to assist local authorities in implementing the requirements of the legislation. Many suggestions for improving both the wording of the Bill and the draft guidance were made, and hopefully will go forward to influence the next drat of the guidance and the final wording of the Act as it passes through Parliament. A request was made for wider distribution of the draft guidance once it has been revised, and prior to publication, to allow for greater input by tree officers.
Local Tree and Woodland Frameworks
The Environment Bill does not impose a duty on local authorities to produce a Tree and Woodland Framework (i.e. a tree strategy or tree policy), but the Government is considering providing best practice advice. Broadly, there was a general conclusion that best practice advice should be flexible enough for individual local authorities to tailor their frameworks (should they choose to create one), to their own local priorities and requirements, and the frameworks should also take account of other local strategies and policies.