Last week there was a faint air of spring in London. There were occasional warm days, with crocuses in flower, purple violets in the roadside ditch by my house and I saw a red admiral butterfly sunning its wings on a bramble leaf. Even though it’s snowing again now the possibility of summer and warmth has made me think about street trees.
It’s extremely hard to find new space for street trees in London because the cables and pipes under the roadway have spread like chthonic vines over the last 150 years or so. But even so I think we need to take a new approach to street trees that treats them as part of the streetscape, rather than dotting them along the roadside.
Trees live a long time, some of the most magnificent trees in London are over 200 years old, so we need to imagine what the climate and local weather will be like when the trees we plant today reach their peak. We might want think of trees providing shade, not only to pedestrians, but also giving shade to nearby windows. We might need to use trees to suck up ground water and slow flash flooding. We might want to use trees to make our cities more interesting, more beautiful.
At the beginning of this year the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Street trees deliver a whole host of benefits for Londoners helping to improve the look and feel of neighbourhoods as well as making the capital a more attractive place to live and invest in.”
Under the Mayor’s street tree scheme, which is delivered in partnership with the Forestry Commission and Groundwork London, local boroughs, community groups and charities can apply for funding from a pot of £1.7m to plant street trees. Recipients work with the community to identify areas where local people most want trees, and many of the successful applicants have taken into account planting requests from members of the public made during the Mayor’s previous street tree programme completed in his first term.
The next round of the Mayor’s street tree initiative will open for applications in spring 2013. So get your applications in for a more beautiful London.
Be inspired by these trees from around the world and imagine a better streetscene here at home.