By Rachael Milne
South Tyneside Tree Action Group (STTAG) was formed in May 2018 by South Tyneside residents who feel extremely concerned with the mature tree felling happening across the area. Our aim is to save as many healthy, mature trees as possible. STTAG has met with South Tyneside Council officers and elected members and expressed our concerns and asked questions surrounding proposed tree felling. A petition has been set up which asks our council to stop felling healthy trees for new tarmac paths. That petition has 1,000 signatures. It is available on recycled paper form and online. Newspaper articles to help raise awareness have been an important part of our campaign. STTAG has featured in the Gazette, Chronicle and the Canary. We have a Facebook page and are on Twitter.
Keeping abreast of policies and planning applications is key to getting objections in on time and putting a strong case forward to help save trees scheduled to be felled if plans are approved. We objected to the Draft Local Plan that could see 2,100 trees felled for future housing and industrial developments.
We request Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) on at risk trees in imminent danger of felling either by home owners or housing associations. The council tends not to put TPOs on council land in general. To get accurate information about tree felling, replanting rates and budgets, we submit Freedom of Information requests to the council.
STTAG has had some successes. Former Boldon C of E school on Rectory Bank land was denied planning permission after STTAG started an online petition which gained hundreds of signatures. A video of the site published online showed the large number of healthy mature trees that would have been felled.
We put a case forward that the land could be sensitively developed along with maintaining these trees. Elected members voted 8-5 and after an appeal the Secretary of State also agreed with STTAG.
The Flags to Flexible program (F2F) is a 25 year programme which will see all pavements across South Tyneside replaced with tarmac paths. Already in its fifth year, 200 healthy mature trees have so far been felled directly as part of the F2F programme.
STTAG met with the head of highways and our tree officer at the town hall and put forward engineering solutions to help maintain trees on streets whilst still replacing with tarmac. Mature trees on Mortimer Road, South Shields which were scheduled to be felled were saved several months after this meeting.
Another major issue revolves around the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), which is a joint venture between South Tyneside and Sunderland Council with Henry Boot Developments. These are units being built on 370 acres of Green Belt land. Thousands of metres of hedges and trees have been, are being and will be felled during this development.
What can YOU do?