One thing all local authorities are responsible for is tree management â€“ mainly in terms of health and safety. If they fail in this duty they could be liable to a fine of up to Â£4million. BCBCâ€™s tree management policy is to be discussed by the Cabinet this afternoon (pdf).
At BCBC, tree management isnâ€™t the responsibility of a single department, but the responsibility of the department whoever owns the land the trees are on.
Research from 2015 estimated that in terms of urban trees (pdf), Bridgend had:
- At least 430,000 urban trees (99 trees per hectare) â€“ above average for the UK â€“ but a lower population of medium to large trees.
- 60 different tree and shrub species.
- 12% urban tree cover (equivalent to 533 hectares), with the potential for 27%.
In terms of what these were â€œworthâ€� to Bridgend, a conservative estimate says Bridgendâ€™s urban trees:
- Intercept/absorb 124million litres of water annually â€“ the equivalent of 360 swimming pools â€“ saving Â£164,000 in sewerage charges.
- Remove 61 tons of airborne pollutants, worth Â£326,000 in damage costs.
- Remove 2,080 tons of carbon â€“ estimated to be worth Â£461,000.
- Store 53,500 tons of carbon â€“ the equivalent of the annual emissions from 98,500 cars â€“ worth Â£12.1million.
- Have a replacement value of Â£142million and an asset value of Â£632million.
BCBC undertook a review and assessment of trees in order to decide whether trees require work to them or even removal in the interests of public safety. A list of works has been drafted and a company will be hired to undertake the necessary works from August 2018.
The priority area will be areas that are in constant use (i.e. A-roads, residential areas, schools, play areas). Trees in these areas will be inspected annually.
Next down the ladder of priority are trees that are in heavily-used areas but not for 24-hours a day (i.e. car parks, offices); these will be inspected every two years. Lower priority areas â€“ like rural open spaces â€“ might only have their trees inspected every 10 years.
Any urgent work will be undertaken within 24 hours, with less urgent work taking place 6-12 months after the original assessment. Work deemed â€œnon-essentialâ€� wonâ€™t be undertaken by BCBC at all â€“ and this may include many householder requests.
A training programme for relevant staff â€“ funded by the Welsh Government â€“ will take place between July 2018 and March 2019.
The estimated cost of all the works and the plan is Â£240,000, which will come from individual department budgets (based on land responsibility).