It could be my biased memory, but when I was younger I remember residential streets lined with lush and leafy trees. In fact one of my favourite memories as a child was walking home from school kicking the masses of golden autumn leaves that had gathered at the kerbside. Just to prove I wasn’t going a little mad I decided to investigate and looking on Google Street View. I took a look at the road outside my school. Since the original Street View car passed in 2008 it appears that the trees have indeed been removed, not only those but quite a few streets I travel down regularly appear to be less green than I recall.
So, why have the trees been banished from their urban habitat? After all, I’m sure the majority of readers would love to live on a beautiful tree lined street. And shouldn’t the council be promoting a greener living environment? Perhaps even planting more trees in our towns and cities to improve air quality intercept rainfall.
It seems there are a number of factors to take into account and it’s not always as simple as planting more trees for a more natural environment. In the past trees have been planted with little long term urban planning.
As trees mature they generally take up a lot more room than younger trees. Larger, taller trees mean a more complex and far reaching underground root system that can cause damage to drainage systems. The trunk of the tree also becomes problematic with larger trees. When planted a tree may have has a sufficient area to grow in its tree pit, but 10 years later the tree is substantially larger and struggles to fit. Often lifting and cracking the pavement above, creating trip hazards and increasing pavement repair costs. It’s not just a problem below ground, trees often clash with our urban environment, falling branches cause occasional damage, if they’ve not already been mercilessly cut back as they’ve grown towards our telephone lines or over our parking areas. The yearly leaf fall in combination with our wet British weather causes a slip hazard, not to mention the cost of ensuring drains are cleared of leaves and sticks.
All of these problems seem to mount up, and so it seems with the bad urban planning of yesteryear the trees around my neighbourhood are slowly been removed and the pavements re-tarmacked, removing all evidence of their existence. Trees no longer seem to get fair rights in our urban areas and are seen as a secondary to utilities and infrastructure. I just have to hope that in future the new housing developments and neighbourhoods make provision for trees and green areas, allowing for space, enough soil and water to allow trees to flourish. Maybe then we’ll see more lush, leafy, tree lined streets once again.