Wharton

From tiny seeds grow mighty oaks: Warwickshire Wharton becomes UK leader

  • 17 Jul 2018

NEVER before have we been more aware of our natural environment – and one local business is leading the charge in changing the way planners, developers and landowners approach the need for better green spaces.

2018 sees Wharton celebrating its tenth year in business, having started out as a part-time ‘lifestyle’ business for a local authority tree officer from Wellesbourne. Fast-forward a decade and Wharton Natural Infrastructure Consultants, based in Alcester, is celebrating its milestone anniversary as one of the largest tree consultancies in the UK.

The company, founded and headed by Peter Wharton (pictured), is a one-stop shop for land, tree and ecology advice, managing projects and developments for everyone from councils and planning departments to private estates, property owners, land managers, architects, schools and leisure destinations.

The focus is on viewing trees and green spaces not as obstacles in the planning process – but as assets; enhancing development, protecting and creating invaluable natural spaces and realising the hugely positive impact that they have on everything from property prices to health and wellbeing.

But it’s not about tree-hugging, as Mr Wharton, a 36-year-old dad-of-two, commented: “We’re definitely not tree-huggers, and that’s important. We believe there’s a fine balance between appropriate tree retention and the need for development.

“It’s not about enabling old trees to be removed to make way for a new development and re-planting in a new area. But we are realists – and sometimes a tree does have to go. Wherever possible we will mitigate the impact of development, finding a solution that has minimal impact on the trees and ecology of the site.

“Our mission is to be nature’s voice – and we want to change the way trees and ecology are viewed in planning terms; rather than it being a box to tick or a problem to overcome, we turn natural constraints into exciting opportunities: achieving planning success, improving quality of life, allowing nature to thrive.”

One of Wharton’s biggest achievements to date is the regeneration of Coventry University. The trees and ecology were a major constraint, but it was considered that the removal of trees to allow development – with new green areas created elsewhere – provided the optimum solution that struck the right balance between nature and human needs.

Without Wharton’s expertise – resulting in re-planting across the city – the new Science and Health Building which was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year, wouldn’t have happened.

There’s a growing realisation about the important role trees play in our urban as well as the rural environment. Trees absorb pollutants with measurable benefits to people’s health – but they also deliver a whole host of other economic, environmental and social benefits.

Studies show that where industrial areas and work places include trees, employees are more productive and have a greater sense of job satisfaction. And, trees increase economic as well as personal wellbeing, with property values boosted by their presence.

‘Trees are too often seen as additional, rather than fundamental, to good development and we’re working hard to change that, helping create green infrastructure that we can fit buildings into, rather than the other way around,” Mr Wharton added.

Having started as a small, one-man part-time business, Wharton now employs a team of 8 and is looking to ‘branch out’ further in the year ahead, taking on more staff and opening a second office in the Birmingham area.

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