In a bid to become the “capital” of the National Forest, an ambitious team of enthusiasts in Burton gave away free trees to people in the town. The Burton Tree Project has joined up with local youths with special needs and local council to provide this unique scheme.
Compared to the average tree cover, Burton has a lower tree cover of just 9.4%.
East Staffordshire Borough councillor Bernard Peters commented: “It is all about the community getting involved and taking ownership and it is the perfect time of year to do it as people love looking at trees during the festive period.
“It is a marvellous project and it is great to be working in partnership with Staffordshire County Council and the other organisations as well as Fountains School.
“The free trees are suitable for small spaces, easy to look after and look nice all year round.”
National Forest community liaison officer Sue Anderson said: “If you give someone a tree for their garden and all they have to do is look after it, they love it.”
Sue added: “The aim of the scheme is to get more trees in the urban environment. There is loads of research about the benefits which suggest that if you can see trees from your office or workplace you are more likely to be pro-active at work and other studies suggest that seeing trees make you half as likely to need painkillers.
“I would encourage everyone to come down and take advantage – it is a wonderful project.”
Special needs pupils from Fountains High School delivered customer service for members of the community to collect their trees, which are allocated as two per customer. The collaboration aims to give the students a range of qualifications and an introduction to horticulture and customer service.
The initiative follows a two–year pilot project with community volunteers who undertook a field survey of trees in the area.
Gill Heath, cabinet member for communities at Staffordshire County Council, said: “We know that having trees in our towns and villages has huge benefits like reducing pollution and improving the environment for wildlife and communities. But these benefits are often unrecognised and not appreciated.
“Thanks to our team of volunteers and the survey we now understand more about the benefits trees bring to communities and what people can do to help. For example, we now know that in Burton trees remove 23 tonnes of pollution and 722 tonnes of carbon dioxide valued at around £100,000 every year.
“More trees will deliver more benefits so, if you’re interested in helping to boost Burton’s greenery, then pick up your free tree and get planting.”
John Everitt, chief executive of the National Forest Company, said: “As the largest town in the National Forest, Burton should be heading the tables for tree cover figures.
“At only 9.4 per cent we all need to get behind the challenge of increasing the number of trees in the town, and bringing all the benefits of urban tree planting to Burton.
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“We all need trees all around us, not simply in places we go away to, to enjoy them. At the National Forest Company, we are very keen to encourage and enable tree planting in the town, and we are delighted to support the Free Tree scheme in East Staffordshire.
“We hope that everyone will go along to The Potting Shed at Stapenhill to collect a tree and plant it in their garden; do also let us know of any other places where you would love to see some trees planted.”
Councillor Colin Whittaker, deputy leader for cultural services at East Staffordshire Borough Council, said: “East Staffordshire Borough Council is fully supportive of the Burton Tree Project. Trees play an important role in people’s lives and the visual appearance of Burton.
“The partnership between the borough council, Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Burton Conservation Volunteers and the National Forest Company in delivering the tree project is a positive step in improving the natural environment around Burton for the benefit of current and future generations.”
The East Staffordshire Local Plan (2012-2031) noted: “Burton will be a positive and ambitious town, which has developed its sub regional status as an economic, retail, leisure and cultural centre…Burton upon Trent will be recognised nationally as the “capital” of the National Forest, with a high quality and diverse green infrastructure network providing environmental, biodiversity, health, and sustainable transport opportunities.”