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Calls for major urban tree planting programme in Brighton & Hove

1st May 2024
  • Tree cover in Brighton & Hove is a third lower than England average
  • Report reveals ‘huge divide’ in coverage across city wards
  • Existing trees are worth more than £500m in public benefits

CPRE Sussex is calling for a major urban tree planting programme in Brighton & Hove after research showed the city’s tree cover is a third lower than the average for England.

CPRE Sussex and Brighton & Hove City Council commissioned the research from experts Treeconomics to investigate the current state of tree cover in the city and explore opportunities for new planting.

It revealed the city’s tree cover is 10.5% – a third lower than the average for England of 16%. Without urgent action, this is likely to get worse as Brighton & Hove loses existing trees to elm disease and ash dieback.

Researchers also found huge divides in tree cover between the city’s wards. The most well-covered ward has nearly nine times as much tree coverage as the mostly poorly covered.

Many of the wards with the lowest cover are on the seafront, making them inappropriate for tree planting. However, North Portslade has the second lowest coverage and Woodingdean the fifth.

CPRE Sussex director Paul Steedman said: “This research highlights the need for a radical expansion in tree planting across the city and action to tackle tree inequity. We’d like to see the council lead a citywide partnership to rapidly accelerate the replacement of trees that are lost and the planting of new ones – and we’re ready to be part of making this happen. We want to help as many people as possible access the health and environmental benefits trees bring. That is why we are working with the council and communities to help Plant Your Postcode and supporting the first Brighton & Hove Tree Festival in May.”

The Treeconomics research resulted in two reports – a tree inventory and a tree planting opportunity mapping report.

They call for a major expansion in tree planting with a long-term target of 15% canopy cover – the recommended average for a coastal city. CPRE Sussex says the council should adopt this target as its own aim.

To achieve this, researchers identified 329 ha – just under 4% of Brighton & Hove’s land – as plantable space on ‘soft landscapes’ such as parks and verges. They also identified 36,000 locations worth investigating for ‘hard landscape’ street tree planting.

Cllr Tim Rowkins, Chair of Brighton and Hove’s City Environment, South Downs & The Sea Committee, said: “This in-depth analysis of canopy cover in Brighton & Hove will be incredibly useful in helping us to plan tree planting across the city. Trees in the urban environment come with so many benefits. Aside from aesthetically improving our streets, they help tackle climate change, support biodiversity, alleviate flood risk and can improve air quality. The natural shade they provide also helps our streets to stay cool during the increasingly regular hot weather we are experiencing.

This study clearly shows the parts of the city with the least coverage, and that will help us to prioritise our limited resources.

We welcome the report and look forward to working with CPRE Sussex to increase the number of trees in the city.”

As well as highlighting the need for more planting, the research also revealed the huge value of existing urban trees.

Researchers estimate the city’s current 36,800 public trees are worth more than half a billion pounds, based on the public benefits they provide residents.

They store approximately 14,900 tonnes of carbon, absorbing a further 425 tonnes every year.

They also filter around 6.4 tonnes of air pollutants annually and divert 15,300 cubic metres of rainwater from the drainage system while providing vital cooling to the urban streets.

View the Tree Inventory Report here.

View the Soft and Hard Landscapes Tree Planting Opportunity Mapping Report here