BRIDGWATER Town Council leaders sat around a table with residents and partners from Somerset and Sedgemoor councils this week and thrashed out an agreement to make a tree replacement policy a reality.

The current tree crisis came about when five cherry trees at Bridgwater’s Hamp Green Rise, owned by Somerset County Council, were declared unsafe due to disease and were condemned.

Residents opposed the decision and brought their concerns to BTC’s Town Development Forum.

It came to light that cash-strapped Somerset had absolutely no policy to replace trees and no funds in place, either.

District contractors Clean Surroundings were tasked with the removal of the trees but with no funds the street would be bereft.

Town council leader Cllr Brian Smedley, said: “Town council has agreed to set up an arms length charity with ourselves as the sole trustees.

“With this we can bid for funds, act as a focus for crowdfunding and add our own money in to launch the project in the first place.

“More than this, though, we needed an arrangement with our partners.

“At the meeting this week, Sedgemoor agreed to provide the labour free as their contribution and residents agreed to form a support group to deal with maintenance until they were established, after which point Somerset agreed that they would accept liability thereafter.

“We will use Hamp Green Rise as a test case to see if this formula works and then the fund will be open across the town wherever trees are threatened.”

The next thing which will happen is the five diseased trees will come down on Hamp Green Rise.

Then, on September 11, the town council finance executive will vote on the amount of support we will get and the five trees will be replaced but there will also be the potential for 10 trees going in there.

“With the appalling lack of tree cover provided in this town in the past we need to be planting at least two trees for every one fallen. The green fightback starts here.”

The next BTC Climate Change Forum is at the Town Hall on August 15 at 7pm.