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Trees: delivering healthy places for healthy people

Author:  Sue James
Last Updated:  10/08/2021

…and how the new document on Trees Planning and Development: A Guide for Delivery from the Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) can help to achieve this

Sue James, Chartered Architect and Convenor of the Trees and Design Action Group

Trees, Planning and Development: A Guide for Delivery

Trees, Planning and Development: A Guide for Delivery (Section One) is now available on the TDAG website www.tdag.org.uk It is fully hyperlinked and the full-page infographics are freely available for third-party use.

Trees have certainly been climbing up the urban agenda in recent years and this appears to have erupted into star billing, such that urban trees now have a significant role in the proposed changes to planning, in the National Model Design Code and now with the England Trees Action Plan.

Here the word ‘action’ gives out a significant message to us all, as it, hopefully, demonstrates a willingness to ‘do something’ about all trees, including urban trees.

The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in our urban environments where many people have no or insufficient access to trees and green spaces. A growing body of research shows the value that trees can contribute to health and this makes it even more important to have evenly distributed trees in our towns and cities – a demonstration of levelling up for all.

However, trees can only provide their many benefits if they are integrated into the masterplans for new developments from the outset as well as retrofitted into existing settlements; the right species are planted in the right places and in the right way; and the method of planting and the post-planting aftercare are carried out so that the trees become established and independent in the landscape, thus reducing ongoing management and maintenance costs. In other words, we need to do it once and do it right! Otherwise, efforts to plant trees will suffer from what we call ‘the performance gap’.1

Infographics from Trees, Planning and Development: A Guide for Delivery

Some of the infographics from Trees, Planning and Development: A Guide for Delivery (Section One). Available free online for third party use.

What this guide offers

So, let us start at the beginning and outline what Trees, Planning and Development: A Guide for Delivery does to support some necessary and important ‘actions’. It is the companion document to Trees in Hard Landscapes: A Guide for Delivery and both guides sit under the over-arching 12 principles set out in Trees in the Townscape: A Guide for Decision Makers.2

The new guide is divided into three sections and is intended for use across all four countries of the UK:

Section One, now on the TDAG website, demonstrates how trees can deliver financial, environmental and social value into the future. This is important because it provides the necessary evidence-based research to encourage developers and investors to incorporate trees in their developments; planning officers to recognise the value that trees can deliver and therefore support local tree strategies; and designers to have positive reasons for including trees in their masterplans.

Section Two (due at the end of September 2021) will build on the RIBA Plan of Work and will detail the mindset, skillsets, information and key steps needed at each stage of a development project to maximise the value that trees can add – setting projects on the right track from the outset.

Section Three (due at the end of November 2021) will focus on the role of the local planning authority, providing simple steps that LPAs can take to ensure development projects fulfil their potential to make the most of trees.

The documents have been carefully laid out to enable readers to explore increasing levels of detail with key points and an easily accessed body text for a shorter read; information boxes with further details; much more detailed briefing notes; and finally, case studies.

All sections of the guide will be available online and it is intended to be a living document which is expanded and updated as required. The Briefing Notes and Case Studies will have a rolling programme with additional ones added in response to requests and suggestions.

Next steps

TDAG will be working with partners to disseminate the guidance in a series of online workshops and webinars.

In summary, much has been gained over the last 15 years since TDAG was first convened but, to maintain progress, we must continue to work together for urban trees.

  1. Keith Sacre, ‘The Performance Gap’, Forestry Journal and Essential Arb, June 2021.
  2. All TDAG guidance documents are available without charge on the TDAG website www.tdag.org.uk.

This article was taken from Issue 194 Autumn 2021 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.