Council unveils ‘biggest tree-planting scheme in a generation’ – including a giant redwood in Homerton

Photograph: Creative Commons.

A giant redwood tree near Homerton Hospital will make up one of thousands of seedings that the borough’s mayor hopes will be the “biggest tree-planting programme in a generation”.

The council’s Labour administration had promised 1,000 trees to be planted in its most recent election manifesto.

However, it is understood that the recent securing of £4m in funding will allow the Town Hall to outstrip that commitment many times over, with around 5,000 street trees, on top of a four-figure number in parks, set to be delivered by the end of Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville’s term in 2022.

Speaking at a recent council meeting, Mayor Glanville said: “I’m really pleased about our ambition for the biggest tree-planting programme in a generation.

“We will see ourselves get to 30 to 40 per cent tree canopy cover in this borough.

“We’re not just responding to climate change, we’re increasing our biodiversity and making our borough a pleasant place to live. We’ll be announcing more of that at the end of November.”

Speaking after the meeting, when asked what 30 to 40 per cent of canopy cover represented, Hackney’s public realm chief Cllr Jon Burke (Lab, Woodberry Down) said that 30 per cent cover would be achievable by the planting of 5,000 street trees.

It is understood that 40 per cent cover is the ambition for the Mayor’s next term – Hackney currently has 10,000 street trees, and would need 10,000 more to reach this level.

Burke went on to hint at an arrangement with an external organisation that could provide thousands more than that, with announcements to be made in the coming weeks.

One of the 5,000 set to be planted will be a giant sequoia on Murray Grove in Homerton, which the Town Hall hopes will illustrate the potential of nature-based solutions for carbon filtration and atmospheric cooling.

Cllr Burke said: “We are hugely excited. We pledged to deliver 1,000 in the manifesto last year, but we’re revisiting all these pledges to make sure they’re consistent with the level of ambition expressed in the climate emergency motion.

“We’ve now secured in the region of £4m to deliver what we believe is the largest municipal street tree and parks tree planting project in the entire country.

“There’s an even more exciting announcement to make on less formal planting which will involve not thousands but potentially tens of thousands more specimens in the borough in the life of this mayoral term.”

The council will be formally launching the programme with full details over the next couple of weeks.

While the scheme will be full of native trees in a bid to boost biodiversity, foreign species including the sequoia, foxglove trees and tulip trees will also be included, with conifers such as the redwood selected due to their air filtration power, conferred by the surface area of their needles.

Burke added that this part of the plan is “completely consistent with Hackney’s tradition of welcoming non-natives from across the world who make a huge contribution to life in the borough”.

High canopy covers mean streets stay cooler, with the public realm boss pointing out that more trees not only beautify the environment but are a public good as health infrastructure, reducing hospital admissions on the hottest days as well as providing defence against flooding.

The Homerton redwood will also represent the amount of carbon that trees can lock in, with a medium-sized street tree able to lock in a ton of carbon over its lifespan.

Glanville, Burke and Deputy Mayor Cllr Feryal Clark (Lab, Hoxton East & Shoreditch) are also understood to be keen to roll out the programme with a social justice focus, prioritising areas such as estates built in the 1980s.

Ahead of the bigger announcements coming later in the season, the Town Hall will be working with organisations such as the Tree Musketeers to do planting sessions around National Tree Week.

Find out more about Tree Musketeers here.