HC Deb 28 July 1971 vol 822 cc554-5
8. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for discouraging the destruction of trees, particularly in urban areas.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker)

I am concerned at the low number of tree preservation orders in some towns and I am consulting the local authority associations about this.

Mr. Chapman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that trees are being chopped down and mutilated at a dramatically increasing rate in towns and cities, where they are most needed, and that this is causing concern and bitterness to many hundreds of thousands of people? Will he consider making it obligatory for local planning authorities to carry out surveys on trees of amenity value and, where necessary, to put tree preservation orders on them? On the positive side, would he be prepared to sponsor a national tree planting year in 1973?

Mr. Walker

I will give careful consideration to the latter part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, which is interesting. The answer to the first part is that I wish to discuss the matter with local authorities. A considerable amount of tree planting is going on in n number of improvement areas.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to see what can be done to deal with the scourge of Dutch elm disease, which is decimating elm trees in urban and rural areas?

Mr. Walker

I am well aware of this problem and I am consulting my right hon. Friend to see that everything possible is done. I gather that this is a difficult problem to overcome; but we are well aware of the situation.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Will my right hon. Friend consider giving local authorities, through country planning authorities, some guidance about the destruction of amenities in our towns? Is he aware that, in addition to the need to preserve trees, we need to preserve flint and stone walls and other beautiful things that go with trees, and that there appears to be depressingly little real emphasis coming from the centre to local authorities about this?

Mr. Walker

Considerable conservation powers are available, but I will look into the point raised by my hon. Friend.

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