New protections for urban trees unveiled by Michael Gove

Urban trees could be given greater protection from felling under new plans announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Under proposals being put out for consultation, councils could be required to talk to communities before cutting down trees in city and town streets in England.

The move comes after a long-running protest against the felling of thousands of trees in Sheffield, where residents this month secured a deal expected to save hundreds from the axe.

Launching a consultation on a range of forestry measures, Mr Gove said: “It’s right that the views of local people are at the heart of any decision that affects their community – and the futures of the trees that line their streets are no different.

“Trees have often been rooted in our towns and cities for many years, and are undoubtedly part of our local heritage.

“These measures will enhance the protection given to urban trees, ensuring residents are properly consulted before trees are felled and safeguarding our urban environment for future generations.”


Proposals include:

– New requirements for councils to consult residents on plans to chop down trees;

– Responsibilities for councils to report on felling and replanting;

– More powers for the Forestry Commission to tackle illegal felling.

– Strengthened protection for wooded landscapes.

Mr Gove appointed Sir William Worsley earlier this year to be the national tree champion, with a remit to drive forward planting rates and prevent the unnecessary felling of street trees.

The Government has committed to planting one million trees in urban areas, on top of 11 million trees nationwide during the course of this Parliament, due to end in 2022.

Welcoming the new consultation, Sir William said: “Urban trees are an amazingly valuable natural resource, and with this consultation I hope we can take further steps towards strong and robust protections to ensure their futures.

“By planting the right trees in the right place, we can ensure that they continue to improve health and well-being and encourage people to enjoy the outdoors.”

The Forestry Commission’s director of forest services, Richard Greenhous, said: “The Forestry Commission recognises that our trees and woodlands are under increasing pressure, especially in and around urban areas.

“With this consultation, we hope to be able to better protect more of our cherished woodlands from illegal felling.”

Tree felling in Sheffield
Tree felling in Sheffield

Around 5,500 street trees – including 2,000 deemed to be healthy – have been chopped down and replaced in Sheffield as part of a programme to resurface the whole city.

After three years of protests, which saw vanloads of police deployed in leafy suburbs, a compromise deal was reached this month which will spare some of those earmarked for the chop.