Award-winning app created by Hackney Council worker
A Hackney Council worker has designed a pioneering app in his free time that will revolutionise how trees and woodland can be planned and managed.
Jon Robinson, Highways Asset Engineer, spent two years creating and perfecting the tool which allows users to simply and effectively calculate the tree canopy coverage (the proportion of land covered by tree tops) using aerial images – the first app of its kind in the UK.
The 38-year-old Streetscene worker scooped a top gong last month for the app, called the Open Source Canopy Cover Audit (OSCCA), when he won The Trees and Technology Award at the London RE:LEAF Tree and Woodland Awards at County Hall.
“The ability to measure the canopy coverage of trees is an important step in the management of trees and woodlands within built-up areas,” said Jon. “Canopies, rather than the number of trees, gives a more accurate representation of the quality of our green spaces. For example, the larger or older the tree, the more it enhances the local environment.”
But why is the app important? Calculating canopy trends helps planners, like the Council, capture valuable information, and decide where and how to invest in habitats, including the maintenance of older trees and the planting of new ones.
Before Jon’s app, canopy coverage was visually calculated using aerial photography or satellite images, along with light information gathered by airplanes.
“This was very time-consuming and not as accurate,” said Jon, “and dependent on third party companies.”
Trees are a vital part of the urban landscape, providing habitat for wildlife; shading; soaking up pollutants from the air; filtering out pollutants from rain; and slowing down rain water from entering the drainage systems.
Plus, they look nice: street trees increase the value of nearby properties; they also reduce the ‘heat island’ effect in cities; and there is evidence that people feel happier if they can see trees.
I want to thank Jon on behalf of the Council for this truly innovative app which he designed in his own time. Not only will it help save the Council money but it will make gathering essential information on how to make the borough a more pleasant place for everyone both easier and simpler.
Hackney projects also picked up another two awards at the London RE:LEAF Tree and Woodland Awards. Queensbridge Neighbours Tree Project, an initiative by local residents in partnership with Hackney Homes to improve their neighbourhood through planting of 50 trees, took the Street Tree Award; and Eugene Clerkin, a tree warden and member of the Tree Musketeers took The Acorn Award for his work in caring for young trees around Hackney and promoting tree maintenance to others.
Jon’s app was created in partnership with Hackney’s tree team and the London Tree Officers Association which has been gaining information on Hackney’s and London’s canopy cover.