The Chair of the Scrutiny Commission and also Chair of the Trees Scrutiny Working Group, Councillor Martin Fodor introduced the Report and briefly explained the purpose and aims of the Group’s work. He thanked the other Members who took part, the Officers that supported the Group and the Cabinet Members and external stakeholders that also positively engaged in the Working Group. He added that the Council had now agreed to develop a Tree Strategy and Tree Planting Plan which was a very positive development.
The Chair invited the Representative of The Tree Forum who was in attendance if they would like to add any comments. The Tree Forum representative said that he agreed on the importance of a Tree Strategy and was very grateful for and endorsed the Working Group Tree Report. He also added his views on the importance of the next iterations of the Local Plan and suggested that a key part of that should be the integration of the Tree Strategy.
The Chair then invited Members of the Commission and Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy if they would like to comment on the report.
A Member commented that it was difficult to disagree with the recommendations report but he thought it was rather open ended and suggested that Members receive a future up-date on what preventative work and progress had taken place. The Chair also agreed that a future report should come to scrutiny to measure outcomes.
The Cabinet Member in attendance welcomed the report and said she thought it was very constructive. However, and as Chair of the Local Plan Member Working Group, she added that there were also some complex issues involved such as where the Tree Strategy sat with regards to the Local Plan i.e. along-side it or part of it, because the Local Plan was about land use.
The Chair commented that there were also some planning issues that weren’t just about land use. He then went on to say that a tree protection order (TPO) didn’t really mean that it won’t get cut down. But it can help protect it. The Cabinet Member agreed and said that was sort of the point she was making, in that trees and planning often get pegged against one another. She said if too much emphasis was placed on the planning context then some wards would get overlooked. It was also important to consider there are different types of land and land use. The strategy therefore needed to be considered at from a City-wide perspective and therefore it would be better for the Tree Strategy to stand-alone and for the two to Plans to complement one another.
Members were generally very positive about the report and recommendations.. It was suggested that regular monitoring of the situation was important and that up-dates on what progress was made should be reported back to the Commission.
A Member added that it was not just planning but also highways where there were existing and ongoing issues with regards to existing street trees. It was said there was almost no communication and before anyone knew what was happening trees were felled. Many trees were said to be lost in this way every year.
The Commission resolved to:
· Approve the report and recommendations.
· Send the report to Councillor Ellie King; Cabinet Member with responsibility for Public Health, Communities and Bristol One City for comment.
· Add the request for an up-date on the recommendations to a future Commission meeting
The Commission expressed their thanks to everyone who had engaged in the Working Group.