A tree falling on a car and phone line in a residential street in Three Bridges makes big news (Crawley Observer, November 25).
We can sympathise with the resident who commendably foresaw and reported the danger to the Highway Authority, which was unable to bring forward the removal of the tree before it actually fell in the wind. Thankfully no-one was hurt.
Damage from an individual fallen tree is newsworthy because it is actually such a rare occurrence. It hasn’t been news for the perhaps 50 years that it was a beneficial part of the streetscape, marking the passage of the seasons with spring blossom, dappled summer shade, autumn colour and winter tracery of branches. Not to mention its role as part of our ‘urban forest’ in reducing wind speeds and slowing storm water run-off; natural air conditioning, pollution filtering and carbon fixing. Not to mention the benefits of biodiversity and our own health and wellbeing. Trees do this and we take them for granted. It is not even news when in the normal course of events an urban tree is cut down and carted off for wood chip or firewood long before the end of its natural life. Fifty years of service, from a tree is not news. Unless it does fall over, when it is becomes big news.
On this occasion we understand it was a WSCC Highways tree – a cherry, incidentally -that failed, and Crawley Borough Council (CBC) is in the clear. But the culture around this division in responsibilities is both confusing to people reporting problems and counter-productive to the best management of Crawley’s tree canopy cover or ‘urban forest’ as a whole.
The level of commitment to coordinated urban tree management perhaps reflects CBC’s neglect – to the point of abandonment – of the Tree Warden Scheme in Crawley.
Part of a tree strategy – because this is what we need – will benefit from a network of volunteers who care about our local environment by helping to survey, monitor, plan and perpetuate Crawley’s tree cover. We need to get our political leaders at the Town Hall to show that they are truly reawakened and enlightened to the issue of tree cover in a town under pressure, and the part a trained and well coordinated volunteer network can play.
Better integrated volunteer networking and public authority coordination may well reduce even further the recurrence of tree incidents. Better still, new Tree Wardens in a revitalised scheme might play an important part in helping plan for new tree planting to replace those older ‘New Town’ trees – on both CBC and Highway land – that are nearing the end of their safe, useful life.
Anyone interested in becoming a tree warden, or those who may be enlisted already but want a programme of constructive tasks, should tell their ward councillors that they want CBC to recommit to the Tree Warden Scheme in Crawley.
John Cooban, Three Bridges
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