My name is Robert Gordon and I am a member and campaigner for the Green Party. I would like to thank the Councillor and Officers for their work on this and of course welcome the proposal to increase our tree canopy coverage in line with commitments from our elected representatives to improve the City and combat the climate crisis.
As many already know, trees have a positive impact on biodiversity, capture carbon, clean the air, reduce flood risk, and even improve the mental health of residents. Planting more trees, as well as maintaining existing ones, is therefore incredibly important for a Green future.
The report details how our current tree canopy coverage is at about 10%; this is lower than the national average of 13%. The target outlined in this report, to bring us up to 13% (the current national average) by 2050 appears, at first, unambitious. It would mean a total increase of canopy cover by 608ha, which would be an annual increase of 21ha each year. More than 10 times this space, 6,500 ha, has been identified as suitable for tree planting.
The report suggests that it is the rate of viable delivery that imposes a constraint on these targets, although they expect to deliver 50-60ha of tree cover over the next two years from the York Community Woodland project alone, exceeding the 21ha/year required for a 13% increase by 2050. I would ask that the Council use the lessons they learn from the delivery of the York Community Woodland to aim for a slightly higher, yet still achievable, target of 15% which would promise greater carbon savings, cleaner air, and reducing flood risk in York – all issues that are of great concern to myself and other residents. On top of this, it could provide much-needed local jobs and a boost to the Green economy.
Finally, 60% of our existing tree canopy coverage has been identified as independent from woodlands. This means that an essential part of achieving any canopy coverage targets will be protecting stand-alone trees, or those in small groups or along the curbside throughout our City. Too often, residents express concerns about trees being cut down, and the Council should be doing more to protect them with an ambitious and strongly enforced tree strategy that commits to more planting as well as the preservation of existing trees.