London's Trees Under ThreatMoney to plant and maintain street trees across London could be under threat because of council budget cuts, the London Assembly heard today.

The Assembly’s Environment Committee heard the Mayor’s street tree scheme was on target to deliver 9,500 new trees by Spring 2011 but there are concerns about ongoing maintenance costs for local authorities beyond the three year funding it offers.

Jim Smith, of the Forestry Commission, told the Committee that tree planting and maintenance budgets are often an easy target at times of financial pressure.

“The challenges local authorities face in the future will have an impact on tree management budgets,” he warned.

Mr Smith said the Committee’s previous report on street trees, which revealed that up to 2,000 had been lost within five years in the capital due to subsidence claims, had successfully highlighted the importance of maintaining London’s large trees.

He said so far eight London boroughs had signed up to a pilot scheme which sets out a standard process for dealing with subsidence claims, including suggesting pruning trees instead of felling them[ However, the Committee heard some councils were still reluctant to share data on street trees.

Chair of the Environment Committee, Darren Johnson AM, said: “London’s great trees play an important role in making London a more pleasant place to live. It is encouraging that people have taken on board some of the recommendations of our previous report.

"However we still face challenges in understanding how many street trees there are in London and it is clear there are now very real concerns about whether the capital’s trees could fall victim to budget cuts in the current financial climate.”

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