Tree experts help to create green heart of Elephant Park

Tree experts help to create green heart of Elephant Park

Industry-leading arboricultural consultancy Treework Environmental Practice was brought on board to lead the offsite tree programme across Elephant Park and beyond.

Lendlease’s partnership with Southwark Council to deliver a £2.3 billion regeneration project in Elephant and Castle is evolving fast. With the completion date set for 2025, this is a vast undertaking and a key priority has been to protect the natural environment by retaining as many mature trees as possible, while implementing an ambitious tree-planting programme across Southwark.

Here, senior arboricultural consultant and managing director Luke Fay explains what this involves.

“We assessed each tree individually and defined the root protection area using our Geographical Information System mapping software,” says Luke. “The principle is that this shows the area the tree needs for its roots to thrive.”

Ground penetrating radar was used to pinpoint the roots, and some exploratory excavation was needed to inform the design – because the original site included retained walls and lots of hard landscape at different levels.

“Interpreting what that means to tree rooting was really complex but important to do,” explains Luke. “Working with the engineers, architects and landscape architects, plans were drawn up that would allow those trees to thrive. It was brilliant because Lendlease really engaged with trying to retain these trees and everybody was on board with that goal.”

Outline planning permission was given to remove 283 trees but Luke’s team was able to identify two additional trees to save. And, using the tree valuation method Capital Asset Valuation of Amenity Trees (CAVAT), a goal was set to meet what the original population of trees would have reached by 2026 if undisturbed, plus a five per cent uplift. This means there will be a higher value of trees within the preservation and planting programme than if none had been removed.

“We agreed with Southwark Council to plant trees in the streets and parks on public land to help deliver the total value,” says Luke. “If you planted all the trees that were necessary on site there’d be no room for houses. We planted 900 trees in streets, parks and housing estates of Southwark between 2014 and 2017, which is quite a big collaborative undertaking.”

The commitment to preserving mature trees and planting new ones was rewarded in the 2018 London Tree and Woodland Awards when one of the earlier phases of the development, Trafalgar Place, took the Trees and Development Award. This recognises the importance of integrating trees into developments and highlighting the valuable role they play.

“Working on a project of this scale, where the developer is committed to gaining the benefits that retaining trees provides, is unusual,” says Luke. “It’s quite a special project and very rewarding. Working collegiately with teams towards that goal is really gratifying and what we’ve delivered speaks for itself. The award is good recognition.”

The benefits of trees are numerous, and span areas including public health and the environment, as Luke explains: “The more we look at it, the more we understand how helpful trees are, particularly large trees and particularly in cities. We know that trees sequester carbon, filter the air and remove particulates. They intercept rainwater during storms, reducing the amount of water reaching the ground to reduce the threat of flooding. And they increase wellbeing.”

There are a further four phases to be completed across the Elephant Park development and Luke’s team will be engaged in all of those to help Lendlease achieve its commitment to creating central London’s new ‘green heart’.

For a Google map showing all the trees of Elephant Park, click here.

You can read more about the Trafalgar Place Forestry Commission Award here.

To find out more about Elephant Park’s commitment to creating central London’s new ‘green heart’, check out the sustainability page.