Seminar, Growing a livable city, the development of connected green spaces through Leeds- A strategic approach to urban forestry

A seminar with Glenn Gorner

This seminar begins by examining the on-going journey experienced by Leeds City Council’s Forestry Section from an essential, but still fairly ‘fringe’ operational role, towards being embedded within a newly emerging strategic and multi-disciplinary way of working that is fast gaining traction in Leeds. It also takes a novel look at managing customer expectations and the ever increasing volume of referrals for trees works and why the recently published ‘TREE GUIDELINES FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF LEEDS CITY COUNCIL’S TREES’ is so important.

It begins with the concept of the ‘FOREST OF LEEDS’, which developed in the early 1990’s on the back of the Community Forests movement and focused on urban fringe woodland creation where opportunities allowed, to the current high profile, multi-disciplinary, strategic approach that embraces the full raft of ecosystem services and utilises the skills of a broad palate of professionals, such as engineers, planners, designers, academics, developers, as well as arborists and foresters, to deliver large scale projects that add real value to a rapidly developing City.

This approach is built upon 9 strategically important Green Infrastructure corridors that feed into the (River) Aire Valley and connect the heart of the City with its broader built environment, urban and peri-urban green spaces, plus the wider landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales, Southern Pennines, plus Vale of York. The population of Leeds is predicted to rise by some 12% by 2021, from the current 750,000 people to over 840,000. The City will need to expand in all sorts of ways to meet this increase. Some 70,000 new homes will be delivered across the City and large infrastructure improvements are required. The City is aware of the burgeoning problem of air pollution from the large number of motor vehicles, it has experienced extreme flooding events and recognises the need to adapt to climate change. All of this means that development must be to high standards of sustainability and well connected Green and Blue Infrastructure is seen as the major contributor to achieving this and trees are a major component.

The City has embraced the concept of ‘naturalised’ engineered solutions to flood management, both within the flood plain and more urban tributaries. This has seen the creation of both large scale attenuation ponds, complete with wet woodland and other wetland habitats, together with planting schemes within the hard urban landscape that incorporate suitable ‘below ground’ technologies to provide rootable, uncompacted soil volumes that can also hold back storm water. The latter forms part of the recently adopted ‘Green Streets’ principles which inform City Centre development, but also crucially, major highway schemes such as the planned East Leeds Oribtal Route.