Branching out

I was very pleased that Cubbington Parish Council recently agreed to support the Charter for Trees, Woods and People (the “Tree Charter”), due to be launched this coming November, by becoming a Charter Branch. This move was taken in response to a circular received from the National Association for Local Councils (NALC), the national membership body for parish and town councils, which is one of a large number of partner organisations involved in the proposed launch, under the chairmanship of the Woodland Trust (see footnote 1).

Traditionally, a charter is a document that sets out rights for a group of people, and the most well-known such document in British history is surely the Magna Carta, which required the monarch to respect the rights of the clergy and barons. The Tree Charter will extend that principle to the relationship between trees and people, and will “guide policy and practice in the UK, enabling a future in which trees and people stand stronger together” (see footnote 2).

The date chosen for the launch of the Tree Charter is 6th November 2017; a date that is significant in being the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest (see footnote 3). The detailed articles of the charter are currently being written by experts from the partner organisations, with the assistance of input from focus group consultations.

With this timescale in mind, you may regard it as premature for any local council to be considering becoming a Charter Branch and, thereby, supporting a document that hasn’t even been written yet. Perhaps, but local councils may be reasonably assured of what they are putting their name to, since the publishing in March this year of The Tree Charter Principles, which sets out the ten tenets that will underpin the Charter.

For Cubbington, a community that has been fighting the proposed destruction of ancient woodland and a certain veteran tree for seven years, the decision to associate the Parish Council with the Charter was, to quote one Cubbington parish councillor, “a no-brainer”. The assurance given by NALC that signing up as a Charter Branch was “completely free and will in no way effect the autonomy of your local council” appeared to clinch it with the Council.

In return for making this small commitment, local councils who become a Charter Branch are promised:

  • that the Charter will serve as a resource that local councils can use in support of their efforts to look after trees in their area
  • free promotional material and newsletters
  • that help or advice will be on hand to help local councils with projects and activities around trees, and that some (limited) grant funds will be available
  • that Charter Branches will have the chance to contribute their voices to the ongoing development of the Tree Charter

Charter Branch local councils who wish to will be given the opportunity to collect signatures in support of the Tree Charter from their local residents: a book in which to collect these signatures will be provided, and for every signature collected a tree will be planted by the Woodland Trust.

More details for local councils considering becoming Charter Branches may be found in a blog written by Joseph Palasz, Tree Charter Communications Officer at the National Association of Local Councils.

Why not ask your own local council if they have registered as a Charter Branch? If the answer is no, then ask why not?

Footnotes:

  1. The Charter website displays the logos of sixty-eight partner organisations, although elsewhere on the website we are told that “more than70 organisations” are involved.
  2. The quote is taken from the treecharter.uk webpage Tree Charter FAQs.
  3. The Charter of the Forest, or Carta de Foresta, was a complementary charter to the Magna Carta that provided a right of common access to the royal forests, including for foraging and grazing livestock.
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