A Proposal for an urban tree planting programme from The Guernsey Society of The Men of the Trees

July 22nd, 2010 by Treeman

Why Urban Tree Planting?

Many built up areas of Guernsey, and especially St Peter Port, are blessed with several fine examples of large mature trees which together produce a magnificent backdrop, give a sense of place and identity and deliver many environmental benefits. But these trees are under threat.

The majority of these trees were planted in the Victorian era and sadly many of them are reaching or have reached the end of their lives. When these fine trees, which have contributed so much to the amenity of the Island, die there are few trees planted which can replace them.

The Guernsey Society of the Men of the Trees (MOTT) is a society dedicated to encouraging the planting of trees and currently runs a small tree planting programme aimed at planting native species in rural areas of the Island.

Arguably although there is always a need to keep planting trees in places where we have lost trees to Dutch elm disease, trees deliver the greatest benefits in built up areas. This is partly because more people live and can readily enjoy the immediate benefits of trees in densely populated areas and trees are seen as an integral part of the built landscape. But trees do not just look pretty by softening the impact of development, they also help keep our air clean by removing pollutants (as well as removing carbon dioxide and providing oxygen), moderate extremes of weather including temperature and wind, reduce noise levels, moderate storm water run off and provide habitat.

Future changes to our climate, already triggered by existing carbon emissions mean that we all face an uncertain future. If we want to climate proof our Island against future global warming we much start to plant the trees of the future now. While we can do little to stop climate change, we can moderate some of its effects – large trees and the development of more tree cover in the urban areas of Guernsey can go a long way to mitigating some of the negative effects we will experience in the next 50 years and beyond as a result of our changing climate.

What’s involved with the Urban Tree Planting Programme?

Planting trees into the urban environment presents particular challenges. Greatest benefits are delivered by the largest and longest lived trees. For urban trees to survive to maturity they require enough good soil substrate for the roots to grow and sufficient space above ground to allow trees to express their natural form.

Often space and good soil and are in short supply, and the substrate trees are planted into is often hostile with underground services such as electricity, telecom and other services often present.

An effective long term urban tree strategy requires effective and ongoing cooperation between land owners, managers and users of planting sites together with other relevant authorities such as the parish Douzaines and the States.

Appropriate planting specifications need to be drawn up, and suitably experienced contractors employed to do the work.  Sites could include amongst others, street tree sites such as St Julian’s Avenue, selected areas along the Banques, selected property frontages and major new developments which have public access or visibility.

How it would work?

We hate to say this but many trees planted in urban areas are doomed to die within a few years of planting. There are many reasons for this and include poor species selection, insufficient preparation of the planting area, lack of an aftercare programme, and worse, trees planted as an afterthought. Many examples exist of plantings done simply to satisfy planning conditions for a multi-million pound development which spend a pauper’s ransom on landscaping.

The MOTT Urban Tree Planting Programme will be different and will take a professional arboricultural approach to include consultation with all relevant parties. Suitable sites would be identified well in advance to allow time to gain agreement from land owners and to determine the best planting and aftercare specification. The planning phase is the most important part of the process and will determine the success of the Scheme.

Much of the groundwork has been done under an earlier initiative started by the now defunct States of Guernsey Committee for Horticulture in 2000. The Scheme enjoyed good success until it was ended in 2006, when it became the victim of government cut backs. However the framework and methodology developed under the scheme can be still be applied to any new programme.

Sites would be planted during the winter to aid good establishment and contractors chosen by a simple tender process. An aftercare programme would also be contracted out to make sure trees were watered and weeded.


Costs can vary considerably depending on site ranging from around £250 for a simple front garden site to in excess of £1500 for complex sites requiring a protective steel grille & cage, excavation and the use of replacement structural soils including quick water application systems.

Planting urban trees is a considerable investment but the benefits delivered more than make up for the higher costs. Larger good quality trees are used which make a statement early on but actually represent less than 10% of the total cost of a planting site.

A maintenance contract is also required to ensure regular watering and weeding to establish newly planted trees in the first 2 years of their life.

The pace of work depends on a combination of funding, site costs and the weather! Watering would be for a maximum of weekly for a 22 week period from May to September in year 1 and every fortnight in year 2. Assuming a planting rate of 5 trees on 5 sites per year at an average cost of £1,000 per site and watering/maintenance costs rising to a maximum of £3,000 per annum in year 2 the typical costs could be in the region of £8,000 per year .

Whilst costs may be considered high it is peanuts in comparison to the value of development and the long term benefits which accrue from the trees themselves. Considerable scope also exists to examine partnership funding in tandem with the Channel Islands Cooperative’s Environment Fund which could be used to increase the pace of planting whilst at the same time reducing the draw on the Fund.

Who’s involved?

MOTT has at its disposal a team of dedicated specialists and people committed to supporting tree planting initiatives. The Committee of nine include people from a range of backgrounds including:

Richard Loyd Chairman MOTT & Arboricultural Consultant

Michelle Levrier, Vice Chair, MOTT

Andy McCutcheon, Secretary & Acting Treasurer, MOTT

Vanessa Crispini-Adams, Education & Learning Officer, MOTT

Val Harvey, Membership & Minutes Secretary, MOTT

About the Guernsey Society of the Men of the Trees

The Society exists to encourage, whether by giving advice or financial assistance, or by other means, the protection, preservation and planting of trees throughout the Bailiwick, and also to foster an awareness and appreciation of trees for their amenity, ecological and other values.

The Guernsey Society of the Men of the Trees was established in April 1993 in succession to the Guernsey Branch of the Men of the Trees, which had been in the island since 1935. It is affiliated to the International Tree Foundation in the United Kingdom. The Foundation, under its former name ‘Men of the Trees’ was started by Dr. Richard St. Barbe Baker (1889-1982).

St. Barbe Baker was known internationally for his knowledge and love of trees and also the campaign he waged over half a century to arrest the decline in the numbers of trees. He was one of the first to warn against the disasters that would result from the ever increasing deforestation. He worked tirelessly to inform people about the vital part played by trees in maintaining life on earth.

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