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Approval for tree replacement on council land

More than 1,000 new trees will be planted on council-owned land under a massive tree replacement programme as part of flood defence works in Kendal.

Councillors at our Cabinet meeting (20 December) heard that the Environment Agency (EA), which is undertaking the flood risk management works, is applying for consent from all landowners, including the council, for permission to remove trees to enable new defences to be built.

A report explained that, following negotiations with the council, the EA has committed to planting at least 1,058 replacement trees on council-owned land to compensate for around 106 trees that would need to be removed from our land as part of the works.

The report says that where possible the EA is looking to remove and replant trees rather than felling them, and the eventual total number of trees being felled was likely to reduce further as work continues to assess each tree on a case-by-case basis.

Each council-owned tree will be considered carefully and further assessment will take place during detailed design of the walls, to see what can be done to retain the trees through crown reduction, pollarding, coppicing and root protection measures.

The Cabinet report adds that 19 of the 106 trees on our land had already been identified as being of poor quality and coming towards the end of their lives, so would likely need to have been removed as part of ongoing tree management work in the next few years.

The 1,058 replacement trees on council land will be part of the 3,666 trees the EA is planning to plant across Kendal to replace an estimated 545 that will need to be removed for the flood defences.

The report to Cabinet says the EA is proposing to replant larger semi-mature trees up to 6m tall in the places people see and use the most, and there will be significant tree planting on Beezon Fields, as well as at Gooseholme, Miller Fields, Abbot Hall and Aynam Road.

The report adds: "In time, and with correct aftercare, this will provide the next generation of trees for the town's riverside green spaces.

"South Lakeland District Council is in a unique position as landowner to be able to ensure successful establishment and retention of the new trees. With careful species selection and following the 'right tree, right place' mantra, all the replacement trees will be prominent landscape features well in to the next century, increasing the species diversity of the trees in these areas. The replacement trees have huge potential to be able to grow to full maturity in the townscape and ensure that large trees are a lasting feature in Kendal.''

As part of giving the council's consent for the removal of trees on its land, Cabinet has sought assurances that the wood will be in used in a sustainable way, and is recycled and utilised locally where possible.

The EA has said any wood from trees felled on council land will be re-used in as sustainable way as possible, including for public art projects, benches, creating new cycle and walk ways, signposts, milling timber for furniture, natural flood management and environmental improvements.

Potential uses for all the trees being felled will form part of the EA's Tree Strategy, required under the planning permission for the defence scheme.

The EA is delivering a £16.3m flood risk management scheme for Kendal which includes flood walls and embankments along the river corridor, the first phase of a much wider three-phase  £72m scheme.

Three speakers at Cabinet spoke in favour of the proposal and Cabinet members agreed unanimously to allow the EA provide and plant replacement trees on land owned and managed by the council to compensate for those that need to be removed on its land to enable the flood defence works.

Council Leader, Councillor Giles Archibald, said: "In response to climate change we have to work both to adapt to what is happening to our weather systems, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"One of the most concerning things is the effect of flooding on the mental health of people who have been flooded or whose homes are threatened with flooding. It is a terrible thing to be flooded so it is important we increase the protections via the adaptations the EA has proposed."

Cllr Archibald continued: "As council colleagues will know I have long been concerned about climate change and biodiversity loss. Therefore, I do want to stress the point that through this process we will in fact have a more diverse set of species so our trees will be more resilient. I expect that we will in fact gain significantly in biodiversity.

"I am also pleased that the wood will be used for sustainable purposes and will benefit the public realm of the town."

Councillor Dyan Jones, Portfolio Holder for Climate Emergency and Localism, said after the meeting: "This scheme as a whole will cause a change to Kendal's treescape but it needs to be appreciated that a number of those trees being lost have a relatively limited life expectancy and the thousands of replacements will result in considerable net biodiversity and habitat gain.

"By adopting a 'right tree, right place' approach they will, in time, provide the next generation of trees to enhance the town's riverside green spaces for many years to come.

"It must also be remembered that the EA have statutory powers they could use if we had refused this permission. It is better for everybody to work in a positive, collaborative manner. Our arboriculturalist has already worked extremely hard with the EA to reduce the total number earmarked for removal and through negotiation we have secured more than 1,000 replacement trees for the 106 that will be lost on our land."

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