McReynolds to bring Private Member's Bill to strengthen protections for trees and woodland

Alliance MLA Peter McReynolds will bring a Private Member’s Bill when the Assembly returns to strengthen protections for trees and woodlands, he has announced.

Peter McReynolds Environment

The East Belfast MLA said today’s report from the Public Service Ombudsman which revealed there have been no prosecutions for breaches of tree preservation orders (TPOs) despite over 300 reports in three years, showed the need for such legislation.

The report found Councils and the Department for Infrastructure should work more closely together to protect trees, with more information needing to be provided to help do so.

“This report has highlighted serious inconsistencies in how TPOs are administered and enforced in Councils across Northern Ireland,” said Mr McReynolds.

“It is shocking a gap of this nature has been allowed to emerge. DfI has neglected its duty in effectively communicating the relevant strategies, policies and procedures concerning TPOs to Councils, undoubtedly having an adverse impact on the protection of trees across Northern Ireland.

“That’s why I have been working with the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland to develop a Private Member’s Bill which will be laid as soon as the Assembly is restored. This will strengthen protections for our existing trees and woodlands and cover three key areas - granting stronger legal protection for our oldest and most important trees, strengthening TPOs, and protecting trees and ancient woodland from statutory undertakers carrying out works under permitted development rights.

“Trees are an integral feature of our landscape, vital for supporting wildlife and enhancing biodiversity. They are also pivotal in our response to climate change by sequestering carbon and acting as natural flood defences in urban areas.

“More needs to be done to protect our existing trees and woodland. A restored Assembly and Executive is essential to progress policy in this area and to ensure we do not lose trees and the benefits associated with them unnecessarily.”