Opinion with Christine Tongue: We need our trees

The isle needs its trees, says Christine

We need trees, we need plants and open spaces – it’s why, we’re told, it’s important to avoid any more lockdowns, so we can all go out, breathe the lovely oxygen the plants produce and boost our immune systems.

But day after day we hear of more trees being felled, more green space being concreted over for housing and more worry about climate change and mental health! Our council made a commitment to try to be greener, our government promised to plant millions of trees! Of course, none of them promised not to cut them down!

Since I came to Thanet in my small street alone about thirty trees have gone. I didn’t realise I had a sea view for the first five years in Thanet, then a neighbour felled all the old fruit trees in their garden, and there was the sea! But the trees had been part of a much older orchard and the argument was that they were old and diseased, so it was OK for them to go. They looked OK to me, as did the poor old sycamore recently chopped down in Duke street, just in the way of someone’s building ambitions.

Remember the proposal to build a community centre in Broadstairs Pierremont Park? We were told it was essential and to build it many mature trees would have to go. Hundred of residents formed a Friends of Pierremont Park group to oppose it. You should have heard the rows at the public meetings and the lies that were told about the alternative buildings that were supposed to be unsafe or unsuitable. I’m not sure why it didn’t get built but it wasn’t.

The old trees are still there and all through lockdown people were glad of such a peaceful place to go to. But it was a huge effort to turn the idea around that trees were not important compared with a brand new building that was going to cost hundreds of thousands of public pounds.

Building Westwood Cross involved huge numbers of lost trees. There was a big campaign to try to save a pretty Victorian isolation hospital, Haine Hospital, surrounded by trees and the graves of people who had died of highly infectious diseases. All under tarmac now.

There is a housing estate where the Hereson School in Broadstairs had playing fields surrounded by mature trees, unfortunately in too nice a spot to be left for kids to play football on.

And it goes on, all over Thanet, building and building and chopping and chopping ….

But, a small corner of a Broadstairs car park gives me hope for the future! Instead of a parking place a tiny garden is growing, all in pots on the tarmac but flourishing. And round the walls of the car park, rock plants grow, just as if it was a cliff edge instead of an old wall. Over one wall can be seen an ancient tree, which locals have put a Tree Preservation Order on.

We need our trees.


  1. Well said Christine. The challenge is that many still don’t see the need, but every voice, like your’s helps. Thank you!

  2. Totally agree Christine. I only fear that the general public will only realise when it’s too late.

    • Indeed, but we can also complain about trees being removed from our neighborhoods. Even in relatively green places like Birchington and Westgate there are many tarmaced squares on pavements where old trees have been removed and never replaced (fortunately where I live I can still wake up to the sound of birds in trees rather than cars being parked!).

  3. If people stopped paving their gardens over, and/or removed any hard-standing already there, there would be plenty of space available for people to plant trees etc in their very own gardens instead of whinging about the local councils and private developers so much. I wish people would stop being anthropomorphic about trees.

    • That would be part of the solution, yes (though most front gardens tended to have bushes rather than trees!). Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden, so it is important that trees in their streets aren’t removed.

  4. Let’s get rid of private cars. Then much more of the street scene could be given over to tree planting. With every centimetre of kerb used for parking, there’s not a lot left for trees.

    • Would suit me fine, as I don’t drive! I was born with working legs, so I like to use them (albeit sometimes to walk to a bus stop or train station!).

  5. Yeah well said prime example the trees in the pavilion pub in broadstairs been there years now decided dangerous so had them removed so can have more tables for drinkers shame . On them even if they replace them gonna take years to maturs

  6. I work for a large recycling company and I drive all over Kent. Without any exaggeration I can say that every inch of our beautiful county is being torn up, concreted over and most sadly trees chopped down. The recklessness and unrelenting attack on nature breaks my heart

  7. Well said Christine. Here at Thanet Urban Forest (TUF) we have just launched our new website – https://ThanetUrbanForest.org Take a look to see how we and Thanet Biodiversity are trying so hard to make a difference by planting as many trees as we can. It is often residents who are responsible for taking out old trees as Christine said. Join us and join the fight-back.

  8. It is not just developers and Councils that think it’s OK to chop trees down. Many don’t like trees ‘cos they are untidy and drop leaves, take up space in their gardens etc. I look after a little wood in St Peter’s and apart from the serious damage being done by youngsters in the wood there are those who feel entitled to kill mature ash trees for unknown reasons by stripping them of their bark. It is sickening to see a beautiful tree die a slow death. Ultimately it will have to be felled if it becomes a hazard.

  9. Planting of young trees cannot compensate for loss of mature trees. The new plants are usually in parks and left to their own devices. Mature trees take many years to grow, they provide huge benefit to the environment including ourselves. Thanet has a particularly small percentage of trees. It is crucial we protect them.

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