In 2018 we became the first housing association in England to carry out research into the benefits of our urban forest to the environment.
Joining forces with specialist company Treeconomics, we have tapped into a software system called i-Tree, developed by the United States Forest Service and supported by the Forestry Commission, to calculate the benefits that our trees provide.
The latest research found that our tree stock has risen from 28,000 to over 36,000, supporting our environmental strategy to enhance our green spaces and improve our environmental footprint.
Our Estate Services Technical Manager Rob Scholefield, who manages the tree stock and worked with Treeconomics on the report, said: “We’ll be using the i-tree figures as part of our environmental reporting going forward.
“Since the last report we’ve recorded over 8,000 more trees, through more robust surveying processes and on newly acquired land and properties - so the benefits continue to grow.
“We want to make sure that our trees are well managed into the future, benefitting residents and ensuring that our homes remain attractive, desirable places to live.
“Having all of this positive information about the benefits of our tree stock will help us to manage our urban forest going forward to ensure that it continues to provide maximum benefits to communities.
“Trees can sometimes be viewed as a nuisance, but this report clearly shows how valuable they are – an asset rather than a liability.
“Trees and green space also provide many other benefits – cooling estates in summer, encouraging wildlife into urban areas, and providing space for recreation and education opportunities.
“Research has also shown that social housing residents with higher tree cover near their homes reported higher mental wellbeing scores than residents with negligible green space nearby.”
With 136 different species of trees across our communities, figures revealed that the replacement value of our tree stock is now £20 million and the value of the amenity they provide is over £220 million.
Research also found that the trees removed 5.6 tonnes of airborne pollution and 274 tonnes of carbon from the air each year.
Elsewhere it was discovered that our trees absorb over half of the carbon emitted from our 370 repairs’ vans.
The project valued the 7,600 tonnes of carbon stored by our trees at £1.9 million.
Our trees also prevent nearly 10,000 cubic metres of storm water going down the drain – an annual benefit valued at £28,000.
We plans to build 6,000 new homes over the next five years and will invest £2billion into the region over the next 10 years.
The protection and improvement of green spaces across the South West is part of our drive to build thriving communities.
Rob added: “We value our green spaces and want to ensure that our customers get the best out of them.
“Covid has really highlighted the importance of local outdoor space. As the weather improves, our green areas become increasingly used and can become a focal point for community activities."