West Norfolk Council accused as 400 young trees in King's Lynn die quickly
West Norfolk Council stands accused of allowing 400 saplings planted earlier this year to die.
It's emerged that a planting session at King's Reach in Fairstead last week replaced young trees which did not survive the hot, dry conditions of spring and early summer.
Extinction Rebellion West Norfolk and King's Lynn has pointed the finger at the council, which promised to take on management of the site. It's unclear what, if anything, the local authority did.
However, another local climate change group - Klimate Concern - refused to lay too much blame on the council in a year when its resources have been stretched.
The West Norfolk Trees of Hope project was organised by Churches Together in King's Lynn and supported by the council and Woodland Trust.
Council deputy leader Elizabeth Nockolds said after the February session involving 150 people: “It’s great that others acknowledge the need to plant trees which is also high on our agenda.
"We will take on the management of this new woodland and hope to continue to engage the local community in its guardianship.”
The same quote was attributed to her in a council press release covering last Monday's planting. It said 400 more trees had been planted but made no mention of any losses from the original 500.
The scenario has angered Extinction Rebellion West Norfolk and King's Lynn, which claims it would have been reasonable for the council to take a water bowser to the site periodically.
"The council failed to care for those set and 90 per cent died in the drought," said a spokesperson.
"[February's] planting got major press coverage and the council made a big thing about planting the trees as part of their pledge toward regional and national tree cover, only to let most die.
"Covid can not be used as an excuse, as the council still had workers in the field, trimming hedges and cutting verges.
"This is a big issue as far as Extinction Rebellion and other environmental groups are concerned. We desperately need more trees to help fight climate change, and where King's Lynn is concerned, help mitigate against flooding."
Following enquiries to the council by the Lynn News, project lead the Rev Dan Tansey issued a statement to us on Wednesday, posted later that day on the West Norfolk Trees of Hope Facebook page.
An extract said: "Unfortunately, when the lockdown was eased in the summer we got a nasty shock when we visited the site.
"We found that a high proportion of the “whips” (very small trees) that we planted in February had not survived through the intervening months. This was obviously really painful to discover given all the hard work and planning involved."
He added: "If we’re to take tree planting seriously it needs to be recognised as a long-term commitment that requires ongoing effort. There’s no one-hit solution, and so the work continues."
Daphne Sampson, of Klimate Concern, was involved in both planting sessions and said: "We were very unlucky because the drought in spring did not do the young trees any good at all.
"Any care for them was very difficult. It was a combination of the exceptional weather and everyone being in lockdown and, in the case of the council, being busy with Covid matters."
The council has yet to respond to a request for comment on its management of the site off Anthony Nolan Road.