Managing our trees

More trees for Watford

We're passionate about trees in Watford, with a canopy of 18.2% - 2% more than the national average. And in our Environment Strategy 2023 - 2030 we have set ourselves an ambitious target to grow our canopy:

  • 20% by 2027
  • 25% by 2030

Since 2018, Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor has overseen the planting of thousands of trees and by 2026, we aim to have planting 20,000 new trees across our town. As part of Hertfordshire County Council's 'Your Tree Our Future' campaign, Watford has funded 18,000 native trees so far to give away to Watford residents - more than any other district in Hertfordshire.

About our trees

The council is currently responsible for around 10,500 trees. They are:

  • on highway verges and streets
  • in parks and public open spaces
  • in cemeteries and churchyards

We also manage thousands of trees across 506 hectares of public open space, including the woodlands of:

  • Whippendell Wood
  • Harebreaks Wood
  • Albans Wood
  • Oxhey Park
  • Orchard Park

4 reasons why it’s good to manage our trees

We need to keep our trees and the local area healthy by making sure the right tree is planted in the right place and cutting them back when needed.

Sometimes – and always as a last resort – we need to cut trees down. Because we love trees and we know we need to plant more, this can seem wrong. But when done right, it can be better for the health of other trees, plant life and people. These are the reasons why we sometimes have to fell trees:

  1. To keep people safe - When trees are damaged or diseased, they can become brittle and unstable, losing branches and sometimes falling down altogether. If there is a risk people will get hurt, we will remove the tree, especially if it is near to playgrounds and walkways.
  2. To control diseases and pests - Trees have a life cycle, naturally coming to an end at a ripe old age. But just like us, they can get ill. Diseases and pests can devastate our tree population, which is why we look out for early signs and act quickly to remove trees when necessary.
  3. To allow other trees and habitats to thrive - Having the right tree in the right place is essential for the health of other trees and habitats. Occasionally, we need to take down trees which are damaging other trees around them by not giving them the room they need to grow. Our contractor Veolia inspects trees on a three-year cycle to identify dead, dying and diseased trees within the council's responsibility. Works required to trees are then scheduled and completed based on the severity of the issue. Some works will be urgent, others essential but not required immediately, and some will be routine maintenance. It’s also important to remember that it’s not all about trees. We have an amazing range of habitats in Watford and we want to encourage biodiversity to support our wildlife. On projects like Rediscovering the River Colne and the Wetlands Restoration, you’ll see that removing trees is enabling other plant life to flourish, hugely benefiting the environment and wildlife.
  4. To prevent damage to buildings and facilities - If a tree is putting a building at risk, which could be because its roots are damaging the foundations, we might have to remove it in order to keep the building stable and ensure people are safe. We will always do a full survey and will only take down the tree if it really is necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

We only ever remove trees as a last resort, if they have become unsafe, dead or diseased or as part of a biodiversity project to managing habitats. However, in cases, when a tree is removed, we seek to replace it to maintain a healthy canopy in Watford.

No, it is not necessarily illegal to take down trees during the nesting season, but there are important considerations and regulations in place to protect wildlife and their habitats.

During the nesting season, which typically runs from early spring to late summer, many bird species build nests and raise their young in trees. To ensure their safety and conservation, it is generally discouraged to undertake tree removal or significant pruning during this time.

In many cases, if tree removal is necessary due to safety concerns or other legitimate reasons during the nesting season, a permit will need to be obtained or specific procedures to minimise disruption to wildlife need to be followed.

Yes, we prioritise environmental conservation when felling trees. Our practices include checking for nests and wildlife to ensure their protection during tree removal. This helps us minimise disruption to local ecosystems and uphold responsible tree management.

We plant trees specially selected for the region's geography and climate.

  • Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
  • Field Maple (Acer campestre)
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana)
  • Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
  • Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
  • Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)
  • Hedgerows

All of the trees are:

  • Great Britain natives and suitable for Hertfordshire's soil and environmental conditions (this gives them the best chance to grow to maturity)
  • two years old and approximately 60-80cm tall (except for hawthorn, which is one year old and a little smaller, as they grow very quickly)
  • grown at a UK tree nursery from seed collected in the UK
  • beneficial to local wildlife.

Yes, in most cases residents will be notified in advance of any planned tree removals in their area. This allows for community awareness and provides residents with an opportunity to voice concerns or seek clarification on the reasons for tree removal. In emergencies, where the tree is at serious risk, the council may make swift decision for the health and safety of residents

Tree and woodland canopy cover is defined as the area of leaves, branches, and stems of trees covering the ground when viewed from above. Watford’s canopy is 18.2% across the borough against the average tree canopy cover figure of 16% in England. Whippendell Wood accounts for a large percentage of this cover but opportunities exist in the town for increasing this cover in other parts of the town, including parks and playing fields.

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