Cllr Dinah Barry, ward councillor for Winchmore Hill, tells us about the trees on Enfield’s streets…

New trees and plants on the A105, Winchmore Hill, as part of the Cycle Enfield scheme

Our street trees do an amazing job for us: they make our environment more beautiful, and they make it healthier by actively removing pollutants from the air.  They do this under some very demanding circumstances: their roots need to get oxygen and water from the soil but they have only a little soil available because of the foundations of roads, footways and dropped kerbs and when vehicles drive over, the soil is compacted and the water and air they need are squeezed out.

In the last few years I have organised some walkabouts for residents with Enfield Council’s arboricultural officers.  Their passion for trees, like the extent of their knowledge about them, is boundless. This is a list of some the things we have learnt:

Caring for new trees

  • Over 2,000 trees have been planted in the last four years and we are committed to planting at least 500 a year in the future.
  • Throughout London, Enfield has one of – if not the – best survival rates for newly planted trees.
  • All trees lost are replaced as part of the next year’s planting program at no further cost to Enfield.
  • Dead trees are not removed so that the contractor can identify where to plant the replacement tree.
  • Hot dry periods in recent summers have resulted in the death of more newly planted trees than usual.  In 2018 our arboricultural team asked residents to help with watering trees and many were saved thanks to residents.
  • New trees are cared for by our contractors for three years.  If they fail to thrive or die during that period, our contractor is responsible for replacing them and the three years begins again.
  • Young trees do better if they have a ‘Gator’ bag which holds water and releases it slowly, as well as a watering tube to carry water down to the roots.  However ants like the conditions in the bags and can cause the bark to look odd when the bag is first removed.  This doesn’t last.
‘Gator’ bag protects a young tree

Why don’t we plant even more street trees?

The sites where we can plant trees are limited:

  • When choosing a planting location adjacent buildings are always considered and only suitable species are chosen for the location. These will be low water demanding and the mature height of the tree is also taken into account.
  • Where a building is constructed immediately up to the boundary line and pavement, it is unlikely that the location will be considered suitable to accommodate a new or a replacement tree.
  • Trees are usually planted on the boundary line between two houses so that they are not in front of a window. However in recent years, service providers have adopted the practice of running services up to houses at the boundary so that they can access both houses.  We cannot plant trees where this has been done.
Utility services positioned in line with the division between two properties – this means a street tree can’t be planted here
  • Trees are not planted within 6m of a lamppost.
  • Street signage has to be visible to drivers, so that too restricts where a tree can be planted.

Vehicle crossovers vs trees

Crossover in the foreground (where the kerb drops down to tarmac level, allowing vehicle access). Trees can no longer be planted next to these

Vehicle crossovers (vehicle access across the pavement to driveways) remove on-street parking permanently and seldom enhance the appearance of a street, but the council recognises that in some cases they are necessary.

If they are built too close to street trees, crossovers could damage the roots and destabilise the tree, so the council publishes guidance on this:

Older crossovers, built before there were any rules about this, may be closer to trees.  These trees are inspected regularly to ensure they are healthy and safe.  Sadly, when they finally have to be removed, we cannot replace them.

Trees will only be removed for a crossover to be constructed if the tree is due for removal or there is a special need for the crossover.  However we always try to encourage residents to have a disabled bay instead so that a tree does not have to be removed.

Residents can offer to pay to have a tree removed but this will only be agreed if the tree has not  yet established or inspection shows that it would need to be removed in a few years’ time.

Maintaining street trees

The arboricultural team are currently investigating the use of bar-codes which could be fixed to tree stakes.  They could then use these to help with managing the tree stock, e.g. identify the tree, when it was planted and when it was last watered.

“Skirts” on lime trees are trimmed two to three times each year.

When new lime trees are planted we are using the native small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) instead of the Common lime (Tilia x europaea).  The small-leaved lime does not produce lots of stems at the base of the trunk and honeydew dripping from greenfly is not such a problem as it is on other limes historically planted in Enfield.  You can read more about these trees at:

A lime tree with its ‘skirt’

Other species are trimmed when an issue is identified and a register is then kept so that these trees can be routinely trimmed.  If you know of a problem, please let a councillor know so that it can be dealt with and added to the register. 

Trees are inspected regularly and are maintained as long as it is possible to do so and they are not causing a hazard.

Ivy provides a wonderful habitat for wildlife but can damage street trees.  When it is removed it is cut off low down and left in place higher up the tree to allow the wildlife living there to survive and move elsewhere.

Ivy provides a good habitat – but can damage the tree if left for too long

Most damage to trees takes place near pubs and is done by adults not children.

You can find more information on our trees at:

Finally, I would like to thank Claire Hill for suggesting this article for Better Streets.

Dinah Barry