Councillor De’Ath explained that the council wanted to be the greenest council in the country and that there had been many initiatives across different service areas to help achieve this. There had been a number of projects to make estates greener and he invited Sharon Schaaf to present the work to the committee.
Sharon Schaaf explained that the council had implemented green roofs, tree and wildflower planting, rainwater gardens, swales and food growing projects at many of the estates in the borough. The first projects had begun in 2012/13 with Flora Gardens being the first project. From 2013/14 larger schemes began at the Queen Caroline and Maystar Estates and at Cyril Thatcher and Richard Knight Sheltered Accommodation Blocks. The schemes included a 25% increase in permeable surfaces, 20,000m³ of water retention capacity, 600 trees, green roofs, food growing areas and water harvesting systems. These schemes were partially funded through the EU Life+ project. The projects had also involved residents in the changes being made to their estates and this had been a key part of their success; there had since been many applications for further environmental improvements as a result of the enthusiasm generated. Some of the schemes had been recognised with a number of awards from the Landscape Institute, including the EU Life+ schemes winning the Fellows’ Award for Climate Change Adaptation.
A resident of Millshot Close said that the scheme there was very impressive; he had noticed passers by stopping to take photographs of the new landscaping. Another resident said that the scheme had also had social benefits, bringing the community together; he said that the council needed to fund this type of scheme well as their results were greatly valued by residents.
A resident of Queen Caroline Estate said that the project there had brought the wider community together, not just those who were residents of the estate. The Sustainable Drainage (SuDS) elements of the scheme had also proven to be very effective.
A resident asked whether the schemes were designed to encourage wildlife and biodiversity. Sharon Schaaf explained that the council did consider what could be done to improve biodiversity; planting was planned to provide habitats and bird-boxes had been installed in some schemes. There was however a balance to be struck between making the projects useable for residents and good for wildlife; for example, some trees were great for wildlife but dropped sticky residue on cars and so wouldn’t be used in a car park. The council had recently established a Biodiversity Commission which, it was hoped, would make recommendations on how biodiversity could be further encouraged.
A resident said that the project on the Maystar Estate had led to a group of residents getting together each week to do gardening. The group had recently benefitted from GoodGym members turning over some hard ground so that it could be used for more planting. She felt however that the council needed to give more information to residents about how to care for the new plants they put in during the scheme.
A resident noted that only 20% of the 1000 whips planted in 2011/12 were thought to have survived. She asked whether such a low rate was usual. Gavin Simmons explained that this was quite normal for whips, which were very young trees. It was also common practice to plant a number of fast growing whips to protect a slower growing tree and for the protective trees to then be removed once they had done their job.
A resident said that the swales at Verulam House had not been planted yet, and questioned whether the council was doing enough for smaller blocks. Sharon Schaaf agreed to look into the specific issue at Verulam House; she explained that smaller sites had been selected for the EU Life+ scheme to prove that it was viable to implement greening schemes in smaller blocks and that it was hoped that more similar schemes could be completed. Residents could also seek money from the Neighbourhood Improvement Fund to do this type of work. A resident explained that the Investment Group had recently approved Neighbourhood Improvement bids from Verulam House. Daniel Miller agreed to contact the resident to provide further details of these.
Councillor Connell asked whether the scheme would be able to carry on after Britain had left the EU, noting that much of the funding had been provided through the EU Life+ scheme. Sharon Schaaf explained that at the moment the council could still bid for funds, but that alternative options would need to be sought. George Warren explained that the council was trying to get Thames Water to fund SuDS schemes on housing estates. It was hoped that this would bring many of the benefits of the previously implemented schemes to the remaining estates.
Councillor Phibbs said that SuDS schemes seemed to be very good value as a relatively small amount of money could have a massive impact both on the environment and on communities. He suggested that spending the money which Thames Water had allocated for the Counter’s Creek on SuDS schemes would be a much better use of it.
Councillor Phibbs said that the policy for the replacement of trees on housing estates was different to the policy for street trees; tree pits on housing estates might be left empty if the existing tree were to die, whilst had the tree been on a street maintained by highways it would have been replaced. He said that he felt the report ought to have made this clearer. A number of residents raised specific sites where trees had not been replaced, both on streets and on housing estates.
Sharon Schaaf said that the policy on housing estates was different as more needed to be considered when replacing a tree on a housing estate. Sometimes replacing dead trees might not be appropriate, for example if it was causing nuisance to residents or if a new tree was unlikely to survive in the position. Over the past few years the number of trees on housing estates had risen from 3,900 to 4,500, so the total number of trees was increasing quickly.
A resident suggested that a review of all trees on housing estates be carried out with a view to increasing the number of trees. Another resident suggested that estate inspections already looked at trees and that it was easier for residents to suggest new locations for trees. The Chair asked whether the council knew where trees on housing estates were. Gavin Simmons explained that there were accurate records for most of the council’s estates but that there were some gaps. He said that he wanted residents to tell him where trees would be appreciated and not be a nuisance.
A resident asked whether there was a policy that required the council to notify residents and housing officers when trees were going to be removed. Sharon Schaaf said that this would normally happen, although where a tree was posing a serious health and safety risk it might be removed without notice. A resident suggested that notices be put up on any trees where changes were proposed. Gavin Simmons said that this was a good idea which was already used on street trees.
The Chair asked whether there were any further suggestions of what else the council should be doing to make estates greener. Councillor Homan said that the administration would be very receptive to new ideas to help put estates at the centre of Hammersmith and Fulham being the Greenest Borough. Residents suggested that more greening projects should be carried out and that smaller ‘snagging’ issues should be resolved more quickly.
Councillor Phibbs proposed that the committee should recommend that ‘trees on housing estates should be replaced on the same general basis as street trees’. The Leader of the Council said that he agreed with Councillor Phibbs but felt that the recommendation might miss the opportunity to make estates even greener and suggested that the PAC’s recommendation be that ‘trees on housing estates should be replaced at least on the same general basis as street trees’. This amendment was accepted by the PAC and so it was:
That the PAC recommend that trees on housing estates should be replaced at least on the same general basis as street trees.
A resident asked that hanging baskets be installed on Hammersmith Bridge Road. Councillor Homan noted that this was not within the PAC’s remit but agreed to raise it with the relevant officers.
A resident noted that there was a scheme to enlarge Jepson House, where a green roof had previously been planned. He asked whether the sheds at Jepson House would be replaced. Councillor Homan said that she had asked officers to look into this.