Is failure to replant street trees damaging local property values?


David Webb comments on Bexley Council’s cut backs in street tree planting.


Scissors-Stenciled Stump (Baltimore, MD)


During the summer of 2014 some trees along Berkeley Avenue were removed due to safety and disease reasons. These trees will not be replaced until 2018 at the earliest due to financial constraints in the council’s budget.

The council has offered an ‘adopt-a-tree’ scheme where residents can pay £230 to have a tree replaced. Whilst the vast majority of residents would like the trees to maintain the original look of Berkeley Avenue several other issues have come to light after investigating the general issue of tree replacement in the Borough of Bexley.

The Woodland Trust has offered free trees but the council has said that they are not the correct type of tree.

The Mayor of London raised a ‘Street Tree Initiative’ and awarded grants to London boroughs. Although intended for new planting these grants can be used to replace street trees that have been removed but not replaced after 3 years. Has Bexley applied for any grant in the latest round?

Whilst Bexley has a high level of green spaces (over 200) compared to other boroughs figures for 2011 show that of all the London boroughs Bexley came 31st out of 33 for street trees per sq km. Now that trees are not being replaced whilst other boroughs maintain theirs Bexley may now be lower.

The council has also proposed selling off 27 open spaces. Despite a request under the Freedom of Information Act to name these sites the council has so far declined. It expects to raise approx. £1.6 million for these sales.

In a report by Bexley Council (January 2008) ‘Climate Change Stratergy) under the heading HEALTH are the following statements:- ‘Increased mortality amongst the elderly due to heat stress during 2003 and 2006’. The issues moving forward – ‘Higher levels of mortality related to summer heat stress are expected’

From the Bexley Council website regarding trees are the following statements:-

  • ‘Reduces mental fatigue and stress
  • Provides a sense of place and community
  • Lowers levels of dust and noise
  • Provides direct shade and reduces ambient temperature through the cooling effect of evaporation from leaves and the soil.
  • Intercepts rainfall lowering the risk of surface water flooding.’

Also the following:- ‘Improving air quality by absorbing pollutants, producing oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide.’

Air Quality

At present Bexley monitors the boroughs air quality using 7-off automatic monitors at various locations in the borough – mainly to the north with the furthest southerly point being at Falconwood (which is shared with Greenwich Borough). There are 59 non automatic monitors throughout the borough. These latter ones have an efficiency rate of +/- 20%. The closest one to Berkeley Avenue is at 315 Brampton Road.

The monitor at Falconwood showed the incidence of Nitrogen Dioxide in exceedance of the hourly mean was 7 times per hour. (Figures for 2011)

In the 2014 ‘Air Quality Progress Report’ for the L.B of Bexley the predictions for the borough shows that concentrations are predicted to widely exceed the air quality standard for this objective in 2015’. This is despite the many measures that the council has introduced regarding roads/buildings/emissions etc.

From the Institute of Medicine a table has been produced showing the number of deaths attributed to exposure to PM2.5 pollution in 2008 was 161. (Air Quality in Bexley – A Guide for Public Health Professionals) These deaths were mainly from the young and elderly.

Bexley Council has one of the highest levels of ageing population in the UK.

A Government Paper ‘ Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate  Air Pollution (2014)’ shows an attributable death rate in the over 25’s as 122 with associated life-years lost as 1255 for the borough of Bexley.

Finally a last quote from the Bexley Council website on trees:-

‘Increases property value’

This echo’s the Mayor of London Street Tree Initiative which includes the statement ‘increased local property values, particularly in tree-lined streets’

However would Bexley be prepared for a reversal in this statement if it could be shown that a house has NOT shown an equitable increase in value where trees have been removed against a similar property where they have been maintained? Could there be a ‘Class Action’ against the Council.  Could this argument also be applied to a potential reduction in the council tax being paid by individual residents where trees have been removed.

Due to the various reasons outlined above I believe the decision to postpone replacement tree planting until 2018 at the earliest to be wrong and respectfully ask that the council re-instates the re-planting programme.

David Webb

Download the PDF file .

The council will replace trees if you pay for them directly. Further impacts of budget cuts by our chop, cut, slash council?

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2 Responses to Is failure to replant street trees damaging local property values?

  1. says:

    Street trees associated with decline in mental health problems.

    Recently published research (February 2015) shows an association between the presence of street trees and the reduction in prescriptions for depression. Evidence of the health benefits of street trees and how it is important that the Council maintains them.

    Urban street tree density and antidepressant prescription rates—A cross-sectional study in London, UK. Landscape and Urban Planning 136 (2015) 174–179. Mark S. Taylor, Benedict W. Wheeler, Mathew P. White, Theodoros Economoua, Nicholas J. Osborne,

  2. says:

    Street trees associated with greater bird diversity, particularly when mature trees are retained/protected.

    Newly published research that investigated the effectiveness of retaining trees in developments found it increased the species richness and abundance of birds in new urban housing developments. Remnant trees, being existing trees left when the development was done.

    By comparing bird abundance in parks, remnant conservation areas and areas with and without remnant trees they found that keeping the trees lead to more birds being observed on streets that had retained remnant trees and that retaining more trees increased the bird diversity on vegetated streets. remnant trees than on street without. Streets with retained mature trees were found to have similar species composition to urban parks.

    Not surprisingly then, the researchers recommend retaining large trees in new developments to help increase bird diversity.

    New urban developments that retain more remnant trees have
    greater bird diversity. Benjamin James Barth, Sean Ian FitzGibbon, Robbie Stuart Wilson. Landscape and Urban Planning 136 (2015) 122–129

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