Barnet Council has pledged to plant 4,500 trees over the next five years to boost the borough’s air quality, reduce the risk of flooding, replace ageing trees and improve parks.
The programme – thought to be the largest of its kind in London – will reduce the risk of flooding, provide protection from the sun during heatwaves and help to improve air quality.
Trees will be planted at a rate of 900 per year under the scheme. They will absorb rainwater that would otherwise end up in London’s sewers.
Councillor Dean Cohen, Chairman of the Barnet Council Environment Committee, said: “Our borough is well-known as one of London’s greenest suburbs, and we are very proud of that. We love our green spaces, and this tree planting programme will make them even better.”
Richard Barnes, External Affairs Officer for London at The Woodland Trust, said: “Cleaner air, cooler temperatures, reduced flooding – these are just a few of the benefits our urban trees provide, but ones we’re more in need of than ever. Barnet is recognising a need to invest at a time when all local authorities are under pressure. We hope other councils can learn from this.”
Jim Smith, National Urban Forestry Adviser for the Forestry Commission, said: “Barnet is leading the way and demonstrating how councils across the country should be improving and replacing their urban forest. Investment in the future of the urban forest is essential to ensure residents, visitors and businesses alike benefit and thrive from the presence of trees.”
Barnet Council currently manages around 30,000 street trees and 848 hectares of green space including 164 hectares of woodland. The borough is home to the capital’s oldest tree, the Totteridge Yew, which is more than 2,000 years old and has been awarded Great Tree of London status.
Barnet Council will be targeting ‘urban heat islands’ – areas with little shade that are particularly vulnerable during hot weather and cause higher temperatures at night releasing heat built up during the day. Trees will be planted to reduce the risk of health conditions linked to sun exposure and increased temperatures in these places.
New trees will also help reduce air pollution caused by vehicles in areas near major roads like the A1, A41 and A406, such as Golders Green and Childs Hill. Hundreds more will be planted in the borough’s parks, near schools and at the side of its roads each year.