Thousands of trees planted by Blackpool Council as part of its ambition to ‘green up’ the resort have either been stolen or vandalized.
In one instance 1,300 young trees, known as whips, were stolen in a single swoop prompting claims they were taken to be sold on commercially.
Police are investigating the theft, but it is hoped to work more closely with communities on future tree planting schemes in a bid to prevent the vandalism being repeated.
Revoe Park, where newly planted trees were vandalised
During last year’s planting season, between October 2020 and March 2021, 2,600 whips were stolen or damaged at three planting sites in the town.
Blackpool Council said this included 1,300 taken from Crossland Road Park, off Vicarage Lane, Marton, which it is believed were dug up to sell. The council had spent £600 on the scheme.
A further 1,000 were snapped or broken at Revoe Park on Central Drive, and 300 were damaged at Claremont Park on Claremont Road in North Shore.
Coun Gerard Walsh said councillors had been made aware of the anti-social behaviour at a meeting in June.
He told a meeting of the full council: “Of the 4,000 trees, or young whips as they are known, that were planted during the planting season 2020, 75 per cent were either damaged or stolen.”
Coun Walsh questioned how much this was costing the council, and added: “Is there an update on the perpetrators because that sounds to me like a commercial enterprise, not just someone taking them for their back yard.”
Coun Jane Hugo, cabinet member for climate change, said the police were investigating the theft of trees.
She said: “There is a concern that the trees we are planting are being vandalised or stolen.
“We know the trees that have been stolen have been reported to the police and there are ongoing investigations around that.”
She said it was hoped use of CCTV and better engagement with communities would help prevent future theft.
Coun Hugo added: “We are looking at planting a tiny forest in the Mereside area.
“It’s really important to engage with the local community to prevent anti-social behaviour and so that people feel ownership of trees in their local area.”
A council spokesperson said each whip cost 45p to plant, but most trees are now donated to the council as part of schemes to offset carbon footprints.
It is also proposed to plant more mature trees during the 2021/22 planting season which will be harder to remove.
Where whips and saplings are planted, it is proposed to involve schools and community groups in order to promote protection of the sites.
The council’s tree strategy aims to see 10,000 trees planted by 2030, with around 4,500 already planted.
Blackpool has one of the lowest amounts of tree cover in England which the council’s Green and Blue Strategy, approved last year, hopes to address through initiatives such as creating pocket parks, particularly in the town’s inner areas.
As well as helping tackle climate change, other benefits of trees include cleaner air, providing a cooling effect, supporting mental well-being and providing wildlife habitats.
The tree strategy is also used to document where trees are, ensure they are safe and maintained, and include tree preservation orders and woodland management schemes.