Make green infrastructure integral to your plan and reap the environmental, economic and social benefits, says Sue James of the Trees and Design Action Group

Sue James (current cv) (2)

Trees have made significant steps on the political agenda – the Committee on Climate Change requires the planting of 30,000 hectares of trees every year to 2050.

So we have a land-use challenge as to where to plant trees for carbon sequestration, where to encourage natural regeneration and where, beyond the 30,000 hectares, to plant trees for construction.

The England Trees Action Plan (May 2021) led to an additional clause in the NPPF (clause 131): “Planning policies and decisions should ensure that new streets are tree-lined, that opportunities are taken to incorporate trees elsewhere in developments…”

So we have another challenge, but one that promotes the use of trees and green infrastructure as part of a climate-based approach to planning and design: trees for cooling buildings and for cooling the spaces between them, trees for upper catchment management to reduce flooding, but also urban catchment management integrating trees and sustainable urban drainage systems.

When you think about it, all those engaged in design and delivery in the built environment should know more about the role of trees as long-lived contributors to tackling climate change, improving the quality of place and as carbon capturing products for low carbon buildings.

Indeed, trees offer multiple benefits across the environmental, economic and social spectrum and are one of the most cost-effective contributors for construction to tackle the climate crisis. 

Sue James is convenor at the Trees and Design Action Group


Ideas for positive change


This is part of our Countdown to Cop26 coverage in the lead up to the world climate conference in Glasgow in November. We will be publishing more big ideas about ways to tackle the climate emergency over the coming weeks and you can find more here.

Do please send us your own thoughts about how to make construction greener! Email us, using the subject line “Cop26 ideas”, at