Leeds city centre with occasional trees

Log on and twig out with online interactive map for Leeds’ protected trees

Image credit: ID 127570690 © | Dreamstime.com

The locations of all protected trees in Leeds can now be seen online in a new interactive mapping service.

The tree-mendous information service offered by Leeds City Council shows all of the Tree Preservation Orders currently in place across the city and is available online now.

There are currently approximately 2,100 Tree Preservation Orders in place in Leeds dating back to 1945, providing legal protection to trees ranging from single specimens to large areas of woodland.

The new online system allows searches by address or postcode, and has been developed with a feature on smartphones to work together with location software to easily locate protected local trees.

The service also identifies the 79 Conservation Areas across the city, which offer protection to large numbers of trees in much the same way as a Tree Preservation Order.

The system was user tested by external professional tree contractors as well as council officers. The contractors can now check the location in real time of any protected trees on sites they are working on in the city, which will reduce the risk of unauthorised work being carried out and therefore will help to protect the environment.

Anyone in Leeds can now check the status of trees important to them at a time of their choosing with instant results.

Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council executive member for the environment and active lifestyles councillor, said: "We are very pleased to have launched this new online mapping service, which gives immediate location information on all trees with protection orders in place across Leeds. This will help anyone who is unsure to be able to check the position easily and quickly, and will help all gardeners and professionals who work around trees every day with the result being better protection for our environment.

"Leeds values its trees which contribute greatly to the amenity of the city as a whole. They help improve wellbeing, control climate through carbon and pollutant capture, provide shading, wind reduction and flood control, as well as offering food and habitat to a wide range of wildlife.

"The council constantly strives to improve services and to protect the environment and this new online service will help to achieve this, so we would encourage as many people as possible to make use of this service from now on."

The status and importance of trees in major urban conurbations around the world has risen dramatically in recent years. In 2017, E&T reported on how London’s trees were being chopped down at an alarming rate, with over 10,000 specimens removed by council chainsaw crews in a single year.

Figures obtained by E&T suggested that there had been a spike in tree felling in London, with at least 20 per cent more trees cut down by the city’s 33 councils in the preceding five years compared with the period 2003-2007.

Environmental campaigners warned of local council tree maintenance budgets being severely pruned in some areas, resulting in whole trees being removed for the sake of cost efficiency.

In 2018, a report from the Parthenope University of Naples in Italy laid out the ecological benefits of trees in megacities, suggesting that these benefits could be doubled if city planners utilised more of the available space to plant trees. Just 20 per cent more trees in megacities would double the benefits of urban forests, such as pollution reduction, carbon sequestration and lower energy use, the study found.

The same argument was laid out in 2017 by a study from the State University of New York (SUNY), which found that trees could save megacities more than $500m (£390m) a year by reducing air pollution, absorbing carbon and protecting people during heatwaves, resulting in savings to cities of millions of dollars in healthcare, energy costs and environmental protection.

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