Leading scientist Lord Winston today planted a ceremonial chanticleer pear tree in Westminster as part of a drive to increase the number of trees on the capital’s busy streets.
The tree is one of dozens planted in New Cavendish Street near Marylebone Road, one of the most polluted thoroughfares in Europe.
It is hoped the scheme will help reduce pollution in the immediate area, while also absorbing some of the local traffic noise and making the area more attractive.
The move is a joint initiative by Westminster City Council, Westminster Tree Trust and the W1W Tree Planting Initiative, a local community organisation that relies on volunteers to raise funds for the trees and planting work.
Lord Winston said: “I’m delighted to show my support for this scheme and plant this chanticleer pear tree to mark a new beginning for the area.
“Trees provide an integral source of life to every community and I hope that these trees will enhance the happiness and well-being of everyone who lives here.”
Plans have already been approved by Westminster Council to plant new 250 trees as part of this phase of the initiative. Organisers hope to increase this number to 500, ahead of the 2012 Olympics Games.
Cllr Ed Argar, Westminster's Cabinet Member for City Management, said: "Trees are one of the most important ways in which we can keep our city green, helping to make them more pleasant places to walk, sit and cycle, but their presence is all too often taken for granted.
“London is a magnificent city and it’s great to see a project that encourages people to take pride in their neighbourhood.
“Thanks to the hard work of all involved, including local ward councillors, residents and businesses, this project will create an oasis of greenery in the heart of London for our residents to enjoy today and for generations to come."
Julian Maslinski, Chairman of Westminster Tree Trust, said: "As the lungs of our planet, trees are incredibly important and can be a real asset to our neighbourhoods. We have aspirations to see hundreds more trees planted across Westminster.
"Westminster Tree Trust is delighted to work in partnership with Westminster City Council the W1W Tree Plant Initiative, residents and businesses, towards planting of street trees in the neighbourhood."
Mark Gazaleh, spokesman for the W1W Tree Planting Initiative, said: "It has been wonderful to have benefited from such wide community support for this project which most agree adds a positive attribute to the city and will be truly shared by everyone."
Each tree costs £300 and funding is provided by the three organisations, including support from local fundraising.
Westminster Council and Westminster Tree Trust have already planted around 300 trees in Marylebone since 2009 and it is hoped the new trees will help to improve air quality for patients and staff at the nearby hospitals as well as help reduce the their impact on the environment.
Studies have shown that street trees can have a number of other benefits including promoting a sense of well-being, improving the mental and physical health of local residents and workers, while neighbourhoods with lots of trees have also been shown to report less crime.
Click here to view a video of the day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzNLwsdSyls