SOUTHEND Council has backed a plan to preserve more of the city’s trees.

The council has come in for criticism for removing trees which are said to have become diseased and those which damage footpaths.

Richard Longstaff, Green Party councillor for Leigh Ward presented a motion to council recently calling for a working party to be set up to preserve and prolong the life of trees as well as replanting trees.

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Speaking at the meeting, he said: “They say an oak tree spends 300 years growing, 300 years living and 300 years dying. There’s huge environment and social implications as to how a council values its tree maintenance and more importantly its tree canopy cover.

“This motion aims to improve our tree management, especially the management of declining trees as declining trees need to be managed over time to maximise the benefits and lifespan of our tree canopy cover on council-owned or council-managed land.”

Mr Longstaff added: “Despite significant tree planting in recent years, our tree canopy cover has declined to just 13 per cent on average. The value of mature trees cannot be adequately replaced in our lifetime or by saplings  so we must do more to retain our mature trees and retain our canopy cover to the Forestry Commission’s recommendation of 15 per cent which is a minimum for a coastal towns.

“More trees will bring many benefits to our city, an improvement in air quality, greater local sequestration of carbon which matches our zero-carbon agenda  both nationally and locally and the positive effect on the mental health of local people.”

Meg Davidson, councillor responsible for the environment, said: “On many things there is a unanimity that we appreciate the value of trees and that we want to increase our tree coverage.

“We have a tree policy for 2020 to 2030 so relatively recent that that was put together. We can of course go through that again to see what further improvements we can make. The council aboriculturalists that are professionally qualified, they are very experienced and they love trees.

"Overall a lot of this is really good but I do have some reservations. We support the whole ambition to improve our trees and parks we will look at this and see what we can do.”

The motion was carried 28 votes to one with no abstentions and some councillors choosing not to vote.