Over 300 health, highways, and urban tree professionals descended on the University of Birmingham, on 5-6 April, for the third in the now renowned Trees, People and the Built Environment (TPBE) conferences. Hosted by the Institute of Chartered Foresters on behalf of a 20-strong conference partnership, the triennial event has established its reputation for bringing together leading researchers and industry practitioners from across the world to create a powerful platform for sharing the latest thinking on urban greenspace developments.
Speakers from Australia, Canada, China, Spain, the USA, and the UK focused first on the role of trees in highway design, demonstrating the importance of trees as an integral part of the highway transport design process. Then, on day two, speakers highlighted the increasing evidence that trees and greenspace play a vital role in improving the mental and physical health and well-being of urban populations. Importantly, they included case studies to verify their findings and practices.
Building cross-sector networks for future collaborations is key to the success of these urban trees research conferences and the conference chair Professor Alan Simson from the UK’s Leeds Beckett University, believes “we made real progress!” He added: “Health practitioners are talking to landscape architects; arboricultural consultants are talking to planners; and our speakers are sharing the facts and figures that will help build the cases we need to overcome some of the issues that we currently face.”
“You only have to walk round the exhibition to see how technology is moving on. We need to move with it.” He added. Confirming how important, and influential, TPBE is to the diverse group of professionals who attended. Merrick Denton-Thompson, the UK Landscape Institute’s President who chaired a session on Wednesday 5 April, said “It is extremely important that professions from all over the world come to these sort of conferences. We’ve had the most amazing array of technical information and lots of problems have been raised by the audience, and we’ve gained lots of ideas for how we can work collaboratively together to solve common problems.”
Dr Ann Marie Connolly, Public Health England’s (PHE) Deputy Director, Health Equity & Mental Health, Health & Wellbeing, looked forward to “a fascinating day around health, trees and the natural environment, and the role that everyone [at TPBE3 could] play to improve the health of the nation – particularly for those vulnerable and in most need of improvements to their health.” She noted that PHE are working with a number of strategic partners in attempting to influence public opinion on this topic. She emphasised the need to provide solid evidence about the cost-effectiveness of these projects in relation to their impact on public health and the environment, saying that without presenting these facts, we will struggle to win the argument and make the progress we need. Dr Connolly ended her presentation by thanking the previous speakers for their contributions.
Alastair Sandels, a Fellow and Vice President of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, stated: “Trees are going to be increasingly important to society in the future: they are important in relation to climate change, mitigation and adaptation. Working with trees as an Institute member, you are dealing with making long term decisions. This conference is about finding out the technical solutions from the impact of these decisions, as well as being about meeting people who are also involved in making those type of decisions. Therefore, TPBE is important!”
The conference, which had as Headline Sponsors GreenBlue Urban and TEP (The Environment Partnership), and additional support from Wharton Tree and Ecology Consultants, Lockhart Garratt, Forest Research and Forestry Commission England, also included a dinner at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. There guests heard from Professor Fiona Stafford, a Fellow of the University of Oxford’s Somerville College and author of The Long, Long Life of Trees.
To download the TPBE3 conference presentations visit: www.charteredforesters.org/tpbe3. The availability of the research papers will be announced shortly.
The Trees, People and the Built Environment conference will return in 2020.