The York Council concludes its consultation, on the layout of the new forest planned for agricultural land near Knapton, on 19th May.
The plans continue to be semi detached from economic realities with the options being presented to residents lacking proper costings or identified sources of funding.
A report published in December 2020 (click) promised that funding streams would be identified before commitments were made. Such information as is available is apparently being presented only to “behind closed doors” project board meetings.
Added to the initial failure to produce a food production vs afforestation environmental appraisal, this is an unsatisfactory situation
Residents are still waiting to hear an updates on a promised second – urban – wood that the Council announced 18 months ago.
It was said to be located near to the inner ring road. Such a site would be hugely expensive although the Council has, very recently, agreed to purchase land between the railway line and the river in the Leeman Road area.
Hopes that community woodland would be provided on land located between the built up area and the ring road/A1237, seem to be fading.
This would have provided genuinely accessible local green space – the lack of which in some areas became very apparent during the recent lockdown.
Some tree planting, as part of the dualling of part of the A1237, has been promised.
The York Council is urging residents to plant at least one additional tree in their garden, allotment “or park”.
Well, last autumn – following consultation with the Council – volunteers did just that in Dickson park in the Foxwood area.
Four months later, a Council early morning “hit squad” arrived and chopped down eight of the trees.
The local residents association is up in arms over the action.
They point out, in a formal complaint to the Council (to which there has, so far, been no response), that two of the trees that were removed had been memorialised as a mark of respect to relatives who had passed.
Residents are asking for the two trees to be reinstated immediately with the other six to be replaced following further consultation on siting, species etc.
Rather too much posturing going on in parts of the York Council these days we think!
The Council’s media release reads.
“York’s Tree Canopy to expand for next 30 years.
City of York Council’s Climate Change Policy and Scrutiny Committee have proposed to expand York’s tree canopy to achieve 13% coverage by 2050, approximately increasing tree population by 10,000/year.
A report will be taken to a Decision Session for the Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change on 5 May 2021. It proposes to Increase York’s tree cover from the current 10.76% of total area to13% (national average) by 2050, as the council creates a greener, cleaner city for its residents and visitors.
This expansion will be around 22-27 hectares each year which equates to an area of over 30 football pitches. Alternatively, the city would be well on its way to reaching this expansion target if every household in York which had space, either in a garden, allotment or park, planted just one tree.
The target would result in more carbon dioxide (CO2) being removed from the atmosphere and stored in the trees. This absorbing of the harmful pollutant across the city is equivalent to around 1% of the regions total CO2 emissions between 2020-2050.
Achieving 21 hectares of tree planting every year in York would result in the annual removal of 1-2% of the estimated regional emissions in 2038, after most of our carbon-neutral initiatives have been implemented. This would increase to remove 8-15% of remaining emissions in 2050.
This initiative forms one of the many priorities which will contribute to the city’s Climate Change Strategy which will be published this Autumn, and is one of the many tactics being implemented to achieve city-wide carbon neutrality by 2030.
Cllr Paula Widdowson, Executive Member for Climate Change said;
“To become a carbon neutral city we need to make the most of every tool at our disposal and I’m pleased to see that the expansion of our city’s Tree Canopy will help us catch up to the national average and contribute to our goal to make our city’s carbon emissions net-zero by 2030.
“The ever changing landscape of York offers us the opportunity to reduce the CO2 in our atmosphere as well as to create a healthier and happier environment that we can all enjoy. Increasing the biodiversity of our city is a key priority in our response to the Climate Emergency and this also contributes to our management of flood risks, use of public space and creation of green jobs across the city.”
As a member of the White Rose Forest Partnership, a local authority joint venture hosted by Kirklees Council, City of York Council is working to:
increase tree coverage across York
improve access to green space for citizens
enhance wildlife habitats and biodiversity
address climate change through carbon sequestration (or absorption) “
The scale of the York Council’s afforestation plans are becoming clearer.
A meeting taking place next week will hear that increasing York’s tree cover from the current 10.76% of the total area to 13% (national average) by 2050 would require 608 ha of new cover, or 21 ha per year.
York currently has 2,926 ha of tree canopy cover, representing 10.8% of its total area. 60% of this canopy cover is made up of trees outside woodlands.
The report says, “the rate of viable delivery imposes a significant constraint on new canopy cover. The York Community Woodland project (Knapton Forest) in West York aims to deliver 50-60 ha of new tree cover over the next two years.
A 13% target for 2050 would require a similar level of growth every two years“.
City of York Council is a member of the White Rose Forest (WRF) partnership which aims to provide tree canopy across large parts of Yorkshire.
The WRF project assumes an ambition for a 13% target for tree canopy cover by 2050, equating to around 22-27 ha per annum. This target would result in “an annual carbon sequestration rate at 2050 of circa 9,000tCO2 per year; equivalent to around 1% of the regions total CO2 emissions between 2020-2050“.
As with the Knapton Forest project, there has been no public consultation on the plan. The costs are unknown although, based on the Knapton land values, they could mean a taxpayers bill for several hundred million pounds.
The report doesn’t assess the scope for increasing tree canopy cover on existing amenity areas or private gardens.
The effect on food production is also unclear. The areas selected for afforestation are mainly grade 2 agricultural land.
They cover large areas near Poppleton, Skelton and Elvington.
The government has launched a welcome initiative this week aimed at encouraging more active lifestyles. There has been a lot of support for cycling as a way of keeping fit and losing weight. That is very welcome and we hope that it soon translates into a Council initiative aimed at improving maintenance standards on off road cycle paths, many of which are in poor condition in York.
Less attention has been paid to leisure walking – an option open to virtually everyone.
There has been renewed interest in the use of local Public Rights of Way (PROW) as residents sought to follow daily – social distance – exercising guidelines. The route across Acomb Moor to Acomb Wood became more popular. A localbulletin boardhas seen several people criticise the farmer who blocked off all entrances to the moor before ploughing it.
Access to Acomb Moor blocked
While the owner is entitled to cultivate his land, he should not have blocked the Foxwood Lane access at least while the current PROW application is being actively considered. We have asked the public rights of way officer to intervene.
More needs to be done to enhance and improve access to the natural environment at least on the west of the City.
The Councils own annual survey of opinion revealed that 44% of panellists thought that the Council was not doing well at improving green spaces.
59% thought that the Council wasn’t doing well at reducing air pollution.
The Council planted 515 trees last year. It had previously claimedthat it would plant “50,000 trees by 2023”. It had also promised to expand the City’s strays and introduce more wildflower meadows in an attempt to encourage pollinators.
We understand that a report will be considered by the Council in August which will set out proposals to acquire land which will enable the creation of a “large new area of woodland in close proximity to the city to provide green amenity space for residents and plant trees that will contribute to the council’s commitment to become net carbon neutral by 2030”.
There has to be balance. The country does need to be more self sufficient in food production, so the retention of good quality agricultural land is also important.
However, the creation of a country park on land near Askham Lane would be a welcome step forward. It has been a vision for several years. It would allow hedgerows to be re-established and PROWs to be maintained in good condition.
It would also provide some compensation for the sports and leisure land lost through recent developments in the area.
It only now remains to be seen whether Councillors have the drive and determination to deliver on their promises.
More trees are set to be planted this year as part of the Councils response to climate change. 50,000 are promised.
Officials say that the programme has been delayed by the heath scare although little progress seems to have been made in securing sites for the “forest”.
Over the last few months, residents have laid informal claims for the use of some unused areas of land on the City outskirts as informal exercise areas. These would be a good place for the Council to start looking for locations for planting although it does own several sites, including some near the river, which could accommodate more trees.
Informal walks through Acomb Wood, and the like, have brought home to more people the value of informal leisure space. Any Council initiative is likely to have popular support if it is pressed through quickly now.
Hopefully they will remedy the mistakes of the past and avoid planting inappropriate species of trees too close to paths and highways.
We have already learned that nearly £500,000 is required to repair part of the York – Selby cycle path which has been badly damaged by tree roots. One lesson is the need in the future to install “root shields” at vulnerable locations.