It’s encouraging to see that governments at all levels are embracing the use of street tree planting to cool our cities. The Sydney Morning Herald has an article on February 22nd discussing how councils in the western suburbs of Sydney are increasing tree canopy cover to cool the city and refers to a pilot project Gallagher Studio have undertaken called Cool Streets for Blacktown City Council.(http://www.smh.com.au/environment/urban-heat-island-effect-encompassing-western-sydney-20160119-gm97ps.html)
The Cool Streets Blacktown pilot project was developed from my PHD research “Beyond “Green Streets – Mitigating Climate Change through Residential Street Design”. My research found that street trees can not only cool neighbourhoods but have significant economic benefits. For example shade from a mature street tree could save an adjacent household over $400 per year in reduced residential air conditioning costs.
My research found that one of the biggest challenges to adopting more street tree canopy cover is implementation – how do you increase street tree planting in highly contested street environments where authorities, service providers and residents can conflict? Do we need to overcome a “not in my backyard” mentality within the wider community? Our pilot project has tackled this by exploring ways to encourage greater community participation in street tree planting and we have conducted on site consultation events in Blacktown to test these methods. Despite the perception that residents are averse to more street trees on their streets we found communities keen to adopt cool streets in their neighbourhoods.