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Making a home for new High Street trees

Chelmsford’s parks team have been making some exciting decisions about what type of tree we will see lining Chelmsford High Street. But before we see any trees, a lot of planning and preparation has been going on behind the scenes.

Parks Worker With Tree For Planting

Planting season begins in November. Before trees can be planted, work has to be done to create the right conditions to ensure the trees can grow and flourish. That’s why you may have seen pits being excavated at intervals along the High Street.

Chelmsford City Council’s teams are looking ahead for long-term sustainability, so that the trees are a lasting benefit for residents and visitors to the city.

“This is the preparatory stage, using modern techniques to make sure the trees have a good start. I am really looking forward to seeing the trees our parks team have selected actually in the ground. It will be so interesting to follow these species as they mature.

Trees play an important role in mitigating the effect of climate change and are a feature of the council’s action on the ecological emergency.

We’re well on the way to achieving our aim of 175,000 trees in Chelmsford – one for every resident!

Well done to all the teams for such careful planning of this wonderful addition to our High Street.“

Cllr Mike Mackrory, cabinet member for sustainable development

Ensuring best conditions for High Street trees

The hard landscape of a high street can be damaging to trees and this makes it difficult to create an environment in which they can flourish. A tree pit is the hole in the ground the tree is planted into. Within the pit are crates that link together to form a barrier around the tree. The crates are filled with uncompacted soil and water to provide hydration to the tree in dry months. It also prevents the soil becoming compacted, which prevents damage to the roots of the tree. Uncompacted soil also provides nutrients and stability for the growing plant.

The crates are coated in an impermeable geo-membrane. This prevents the roots from growing outwards and potentially causing damage or disruption to utility service pipes and the storm water drainage tank that have recently been constructed under the ground in Tindal Square.

Tree Pit In High Street

Before installing the tree pits, the team dug a series of trial pits to see if there were any utility pipes in the area which would prevent the successful installation of the crates. Once the areas were confirmed clear, the locations of the trees could be finalised to give the visual impression wanted, while ensuring that the crates would fit in the ground.

The teams have excavated a series of pits to take ten trees and these are expected to be completed this month.

All the trees will be planted during the planting season, giving them the best possible chance of establishing in their new environment. The parks team will then maintain a management programme for two years until they are fully established.

Trees will keep High Street cool

In an urban landscape the trees will not only contribute to better air quality but will provide welcome summer shade. The challenge in cities is reflective heat from buildings as well as the heat absorbed and then released from hard surfaces such as roads and pavements.

Trees have a cooling effect through the release of water vapour and because they reflect more solar radiation.

The new trees will be a natural feature to enhance the High Street as an attractive place for shopping and leisure.

The chosen trees are all native species and are being nurtured in preparation for planting. We’ll be telling you more about the trees in future articles – how and why the particular varieties were selected and how they will enhance the High Street.

The work is part of the Tindal Square and Market Road improvement scheme being led by Chelmsford City Council in partnership with Essex County Council. It is fully-funded by developers’ contributions and Government funding and follows an extensive public consultation carried out in Summer 2019.

You can find out more about this joint project on the Essex County Council website.

To receive updates on Tindal Square and other news from the city council, sign up to the City Life mailing list

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Charlotte Maltby
Charlotte Maltby

Charlotte writes about the environment, parks, recycling, business, planning, public realm and democratic services.