Do you remember the Big Tree Plant? It was an early and, as it turns out, rare green initiative from the coalition Government. So far more than a million trees have been planted, including street trees, paid for by the £4 million grants fund.
It seems to be going well then, but despite this there is growing concern that trees in towns and cities are under increasing threats.
The threats, and ways of overcoming them, are being examined for Defra by a working group of arboriculturists, conservationists and forestry experts.
Our own Birmingham Trees for Life has been involved in the discussions. The problems include disease, such as ash die-back, budget cuts affecting tree management, safety and insurance fears, repairs and maintenance of underground pipes and cables, and development pressure.
There was, for example, a time when it was cheaper to leave large trees in situ and build round them, now they can easily be disposed of to provide clear construction sites. As a result tree preservation orders are now being challenged more and more often.
The experts are suggesting that urban trees be given the same status as other elements of urban infrastructure, such as street lighting and utilities. This would help to ensure that their management is properly resourced and that protection is increased.
So, do you love or hate your street trees? Do you enjoy their shade, their seasonal changes, the wildlife they support and the cleaner air that they bring? Or do you worry about root damage, falling boughs and wet leaves in the autumn? The health benefits of trees are well known, and, even if you think some individual trees are problematic, imagine what our streets would be like without any.
Birmingham and the Black Country are famous for their street trees. At this time of the year any elevated view across the City demonstrates just how many there are.
From the Midlands Reafforesting Association one hundred years ago, to the Black Country based National Urban Forestry Unit, active throughout the 1980s and 90s, and now Trees for Life, we have a proud record. With this heritage, and now that Birmingham is officially a biophilic (nature loving) city, let us hope that we can once again lead the way in finding solutions to the urban tree conundrums.