Agenda item


            (Mr. A. McHaffie, Senior Woodland and Recreation Officer, and Ms. M. McAleer, Performance and Improvement Officer, attended in connection with this item.)


            The Chairperson welcomed to the meeting Mr. K. Rogers from Treeconomics, who joined remotely via Teams.


            Mr. Rogers commenced by providing a brief overview of the key aspects of the work to date on the Belfast Tree Strategy 2022 – 2032, this included detail regarding the consultative process with the various stakeholders, including the public. 


            He referred to the future vision for woodlands, hedges, and tree provision in the city, detailing that the strategy proposed to incorporate the aims of the Council and key city partners and to also be reflective of existing programmes, such as, Belfast One Million Trees, the Belfast Local Development Plan, the Belfast Agenda and to ensure that the final strategy would ultimately link with Belfast’s climate and well-being ambitions.


            He drew the Members’ attention to the vision of the Belfast Tree Strategy and discussed how this vision could be achieved, noting that the strategy would have a 10-year life span from its launch date and would set out a commitment to delivering key priorities and actions through a fully resources action plan which would be reviewed at approximately three yearly intervals. 


            The representative concluded by providing an overview of the targets, priorities and actions that had been identified, along with specific detail regarding how it was proposed that these could be delivered through the strategy.


            The Committee then considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1             The purpose of this summary report is to update Members on the outcome of the Belfast Tree Strategy Survey and final steps in the development of the Council’s draft Tree strategy.


2.0       Recommendation


2.1       The Committee is asked to consider the report and: 


1.      Note the results of the tree strategy survey and summary of respondent comments.

2.      Note the draft strategy and the final phase of consultation and engagement on it.


3.0       Main report


            Key Issues


3.1       Following a procurement exercise, Council appointed Treeconomics to work with to produce a Tree Strategy for Belfast.  Company details can be viewed via this link  About - Treeconomics  Treeconomics works internationally with community groups, research organisations, public bodies, municipalities, and private business to complete projects which highlight the value of trees.   They have a wealth of experience in this area of work having worked on similar projects with Birmingham City Council producing The Urban Forest Master Plan  Birmingham's Urban Forest Master Plan - Treeconomics  ,The London Borough of Ealing and a tree study for the Royal Parks in Hyde Park , London. 


3.2       The draft strategy focuses on the maintenance and development of the natural environment. Produced in accordance with national guidance, it is designed to provide robust and objective justification for future tree provision across Belfast.


3.3       In order to produce the draft strategy, we have engaged with key stakeholders through a series of workshops. Details of the stakeholders are acknowledged in the draft strategy and listed in the appendix of the report, available on


3.4       As an initial step and on the advice of key stakeholders, we invited the public to fill in a survey so we could capture people’s views as to what they wanted to see in our tree strategy. This survey (available on ran via Your Say Belfast from 27 July to 27 August 2022 and received 615 responses which will help inform the strategy and future policy.


3.5       The strategy will have a 10-year lifespan from its launch date and will set out a commitment to delivering key priorities and actions in a fully resourced action plan which will be reviewed at approximately three yearly intervals starting from February 2023. The strategy will incorporate the aims of council and key city partners and will reflect existing programmes such as Belfast One Million Trees, the Belfast Local Development Plan, the Belfast Agenda and clearly links tree planting and management with Belfasts climate ambitions and the benefits that trees provide to health and wellbeing.


3.6       The proposed Belfast Tree Strategy lays out a clear vision:


            'That Belfast is a city which focuses on protecting, enhancing and expanding its woodlands, hedges, and trees, connecting people to nature, and ensuring that these continue to be a major asset to everyone who lives, works, and visits our city.’


3.7       C&NS had hoped to issue the draft strategy in September 2022, but the volume of responses received was higher than anticipated and the project team needed more time to consider the views of the public and incorporate them into the final draft strategy which is attached at Appendix 2 and available on   Consultation on the draft strategy will include its publication in December 2022 on Your Say Belfast and all stakeholders will have 12 weeks to comment on the document.  This will be supported by several tree management webinars and education events aimed at community groups during that period which will be publicised in the local media.


3.8       The Council received 615 responses to the initial public survey which ran in July and August of this year. A summary of the responses to the survey questions can be found in Appendix 4, available on  A synopsis of the headline results included the following:


-       Council received 615 responses from in total with the District Electoral Area (DEA) with the three highest number of respondents as follows.

-       Botanic (Blackstaff, Central , Ormeau Stranmillis, and Windsor) with 160 respondents.

-       Lisnasharragh (Cregagh, Hillfoot, Merok, Orangefield, Ravenhill and Rosetta) with 120 respondents

-       Balmoral (Belvoir, Finaghy, Malone, Musgrave and Upper Malone) with 116 respondents.

-       95% of all responses came from the members of the public and every DEA returned a response.

-       93.5% of all respondents felt there are too few trees in Belfast

-       81.1% of respondents could see a tree from their property

-       92.7% of all respondents felt that Belfast would benefit from having a dedicated tree strategy in place.

-       Approx.33% of all respondents disagreed/somewhat disagreed that street trees seemed well cared for in Belfast

-       Approx. 88% of all respondents felt that trees are worth the financial cost of maintaining them.

-       Approx. 78% of all respondents agreed that planting new trees on private property in Belfast is important.


3.9       In addition, to answering questions there was an opportunity to provide commentary and many respondents took time to do this providing feedback and insight about trees and what they mean to both Belfast’s residents and visitors alike. A synopsis of the comments received included the following:


-       Protecting Belfast’s Tree’s, woodlands, and hedges for future generations

-       Producing a comprehensive tree strategy for the city and moving forward with its delivery

-       Environmental education, community, and volunteer opportunities to get involved with the delivery of the strategy

-       Concerns regarding tree felling, tree management, health and safety, woodland, and hedgerow maintenance

-       Tree provision and planting to ensure equality of distribution across the City

-       Planning advice and concerns regarding trees

-       Biodiversity and concerns for native species

-       Environmental and climate change concerns


3.10      Treeconomics will be present at committee and will deliver a short presentation to members that will provide the committee with a summary of the key aspects of the work to date and future actions needed to deliver the strategy.  The presentation will cover


·        the history and current state of the Urban Forest

·        the future vision for Woodlands, Hedges and trees provision in the city

·        the action plan in particular the Targets, Priorities and Actions identified to deliver the strategy


3.11      The Belfast tree strategy 2023 -2033 and the associated action delivery plan will be taken forward by relevant staff from City and Neighbourhood Services and Council partners as identified in the action plan that will accompany the strategy. It is proposed that this action plan will be independently evaluated in February 2024 following year one and at three yearly intervals thereafter. The reports produced will be presented to elected members of this committee for review and comments post evaluation and review by CNS DMT. Council will also comply with any associated monitoring requirements as set out by external funders of the strategy and agreed by council. 


            Financial and Resource Implications


3.12      The project total to date is £30k.   The Council has contributed £20k and provision from this was made from existing revenue estimates.  The remaining £10k was kindly provided by the Woodland Trust.


3.13      Resourcing of staff and equipment required to deliver the strategy and associated activity for Years 1 to 3 will be included in the Action plan which will be reported to members in February/March of 2023


            Equality or Good Relations Implications/

            Rural Needs Assessment


3.14      An equality screening exercise and rural needs assessment will be carried out and approved by the Council’s Equality and Diversity Officer for issue with the draft strategy.”


            During discussion, the Members highlighted the following points:


·        the use of plastic protection covering on whips and whether this could be replaced by a biodegradable alternative;

·        the better use of educational campaigns to promote the benefits of trees in the city, including the trees in the city challenge;

·        the lack off and need for more green spaces in the city;

·        the need for utility companies to try and find better alternatives when accessing sites, to avoid cutting down established trees;

·        the use of tree planting in helping to alleviate flooding issues;

·        the use of small ornamental trees in built up areas, for example, alleyways;

·        the need for a proper and established maintenance programme for trees in the city; and

·        the possibility of tree giveaways to try and encourage people to plant trees on their own properties.


            A Member raised the issue of Tree Protection Orders and whether these could be extended across the City but was advised that this was within the remit of the planning Committee.


            During discussion in regard to Street Trees, the Senior Woodland and Recreation Officer advised that he was currently liaising with representatives from the Department for Infrastructure who were also keen to plant more trees in the city.  He advised that both the Council and DfI were keen to plant more trees, but that cognizance needed to be given to the location of utilities.


            At this stage in proceedings the Chairperson thanked Mr. Rodgers for his input, following which he left the meeting.



            The Committee:


·        agreed to recommend to the Planning Committee that it give consideration to extending Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) across the city;

·        noted the results of the tree strategy survey and summary of respondent comments; and

·        noted the draft strategy and the final phase of consultation and engagement.


Supporting documents: