In his 2016 manifesto the Mayor of London pledged to embark on “a major tree planting programme across London, in partnership with businesses and the public sector.” It is anecdotally reported that there are large numbers of vacant tree pits in London which are thought to be viable for planting but do not contain a tree for one reason or another. In some cases this is likely to be because of a lack of resources – there is simply insufficient funding and staff in the local authority to replant. At the same time it is known that money for tree planting is, or has previously been, available from alternative sources such as Greater London Authority (GLA) and Mayoral grants, Section 106 contributions from developers and donations from citizens and businesses to name but a few.
If correct, these assumptions – that both the sites and the funding exist in London – would suggest that the key issue to overcome is one of coordination. How best to match up the vacant sites with the appropriate funding? In August 2017 the GLA commissioned the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) to work on a project which would seek to answer this question. Using the collective pool of knowledge and experience amongst the tree officer community of London this would include assessing the scale of the problem, considering the barriers to overcoming that problem and exploring potential ways to identify and record vacant pits and identify potential funding streams with which to plant them. This report is the outcome of that work.
Although this report is about vacant tree pits and tree planting, it is important to note that any planting project must also consider the establishment and long-term success of the trees being planted. Planting trees without considering maintenance will never deliver the required results; this means that tree officers should be supported and given the right level of funding and resources to plant, maintain and establish trees for the long term environmental, economic and social benefits that they bring.