The Thanet Trees group has launched a campaign to save the isle’s newly planted street trees.
Members of the group say aftercare of the county council planted trees is lacking and many are dying in the summer heat due to a need for watering and weeding.
As well as urging residents to contact KCC with complaints about the poor state of the trees the group is hoping people will adopt a street tree and water it before it dies.
A group spokesperson said: “We were very happy to see that KCC finally planted new street trees on the streets of Thanet in the last 6-9 months, but very disturbingly a great deal of them are now dying in the summer heat due to lack of maintenance, in particular water and weeding.
“It is incredibly upsetting for locals who don’t live particularly close to the affected trees and find it hard to tend to them with the litres of water needed to keep them alive, especially when many people who live in an impoverished area are on water meters and must conserve what they can.
“However, many hands make light work. So, we urge anyone who lives near or walks past these trees to give them a drink. They need 10 litres a day but anything will help. Please don’t think someone else is doing it. Fill a bottle and take it with you when you go out. Decorate your street tree with pictures, facts and messages, let everyone know it needs help and love and that you care about it.”
The Kent County Council draft 5 year plan states that within the next 1-2 years KCC will “develop and approve a tree policy.” Included in the 2-5 year objectives are “plant one tree for every resident, as part of our drive for carbon reduction and air quality” and “improve the quality of high street environments, including tree planting and protecting green spaces.”
The group spokesperson said: “We question how these aims are possible if newly planted trees cannot even be kept alive in Thanet. The current management of street trees is a tragic and unforgivable dereliction of duty, both to residents and the environment.
“Please contact your local KCC councillor and highways/environment departments to complain about our dying street trees and ask what will be done to ensure these aims are met in the future.”
Thanet Trees has submitted a Freedom of Information request to ask why tax payer’s money being is being spent on saplings if a lack of aftercare means they could die.
Thanet is depleted of tree canopy, with just 4.4% tree cover at the last count, one of the lowest in the country. In the Cliftonville West ward, one of the most deprived wards in the country, locals have mapped tree coverage to just 2.2% and declining.
A group spokesperson said: “Our street trees have been systematically removed by KCC and are barely ever replaced. This is an appalling indicator of the link between poverty and lack of trees. We desperately need more street trees. And we need them to survive into maturity.”
The group is hoping people will adopt and decorate a tree and then post images to social media with the hashtag #savethanettrees
A KCC spokesman said: “ As a highway authority we have invested in our street trees over the last few years and planted many hundreds of new trees across Kent to address climate change and pollution as well as improving the local street scene.
“We understand the values of trees and the importance they have on the environment and health and wellbeing of local residents. The establishment of this tree stock is important and is centred around watering in the first few years of a tree’s life.
“The watering regimes for newly planted trees have therefore been tailored to allow for more watering visits during the first year reducing as the tree becomes established.
“With the help of our current contractor, and improved monitoring, the success rate of establishing trees through good planting practices and aftercare has now reached over 95% in recent years.
“The ability to deliver our watering programme has been impacted by the Coronavirus.
“It has meant that our contractor has had resource issues with staff due to the virus and at sometimes has been operating with only 50% of their normal staff. However, despite this they have undertaken watering to our newly planted trees from mid-April but unfortunately are still behind on our normal schedule.
“In any year where there is a prolonged dry spell it is always difficult to meet the watering requirements of our new trees across the county.
“In these conditions we appreciate the help of local residents to provide additional watering, provided that they can do this safely.
“We are continuing our discussions with our term contractor to prioritise this work every effort is being made to protect our new tree stock and carry out future watering in a timely manner in these challenging times.”
8 reasons to take care of street trees:
- They produce oxygen
- They soak up pollution
- They protect us from flooding
- They soak up and store carbon
- They keep the air cool and provide shade
- They provide a home for wildlife
- They are good for mental health and wellbeing
- They make streets beautiful