Consultation Begins on New Tree and Biodiversity Strategies

Wildflower Meadow

TWO more crucial steps in Reading’s response to tackling the climate emergency begin today with the launch of public consultations on a new Tree Strategy and a new Biodiversity Action Plan (Friday May 29th).

When finalised both documents will shape Council policies in the years to come, helping to deliver important elements of Reading’s climate emergency strategy and driving Reading towards a becoming a net-zero carbon town by 2030.

Both consultations run until July 10th. People can read the draft Tree Strategy and Draft Biodiversity Action Plan and have their say at www.reading.gov.uk/treestrategy-biodiversity

Both the draft Tree Strategy and draft Biodiversity Actions Plan are also key cogs in the Reading Climate Emergency Strategy which is currently also being consulted on at www.reading.gov.uk/climateconsultation

The closing date for comments on the draft Reading Climate Emergency Strategy has been extended to Monday 29th June.

Tree Strategy 2020

The Council’s draft 2020 Tree Strategy replaces the 2010 version. More than 2,000 trees have been planted on Council land during the lifespan of the previous strategy. The updated document now includes ambitious new targets for tree planting to 2030. It also outlines plans for protecting and maintaining Reading’s existing tree stock.

The draft Tree Strategy 2020 has been collated following an initial round of consultation with key environmental groups in the borough. Highlights include:

• Planting at least 3,000 trees by 2030 on Council land
• Increasing overall canopy cover across the borough from the current figure of 18% to 25% by 2030, ensuring every single ward contains at least 12% canopy cover by 2030
• Protecting, retaining, managing and planting trees to ensure an increased canopy cover of healthy trees resistant to diseases and climate change and to combat poor air quality.
• Producing an annual audit of the progress of net tree gain, with a reassessment of overall canopy cover targets in 2030.

Reading Borough Council currently owns and manages around 12,500 specimen trees, in addition to woodlands and groups of trees. Overall, the tree canopy cover differs substantially in different parts of the Borough, from a 6.7% in Battle ward to 32.2% in more rural Mapledurham.

The draft document outlines plans to engage with partners, the public and other landowners in the borough to raise awareness of the new Tree Strategy. As Local Planning Authority, it is also proposed that the Council continues to use its powers to retain and protect trees on development sites, in line with good arboricultural practice.

Councillor Karen Rowland, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Heritage, Culture and Recreation, said: “The targets for tree planting and canopy cover in Reading are intentionally ambitious and reflect the scale of the emergency that the world is facing. Trees play a crucial role in combatting the effects of climate change, and not only in terms of carbon reduction. Increasing tree cover helps with air quality, flood risk management, cooling and shading and encouraging wildlife, not to mention the fact that they make any town environment look like a more welcoming place.

“We all know that increasing tree cover is extremely challenging in a tight-knit urban landscape like Reading – far more so than in a more rural setting. The proposed planting of 3,000 new trees on Council land by 2030 represents a 50% increase over recent rates of planting. However, the Council’s pledge will only be a part of the picture. Meeting these ambitious canopy cover targets will only be achieved when all landowners across Reading do their bit to plant and maintain new trees on their own properties. This is not something the Council can achieve on its own.”

Biodiversity Action Plan

Consultation on the draft Tree Strategy runs parallel with consultation on a new Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for Reading. The plan is focused on promoting natural solutions to climate challenges, such as improving habitats to help wildlife and people adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The new Biodiversity Action Plan follows on from the previous 2006 BAP which has since expired. This new user-friendly version is organised around 14 key themes, each with a set of priority objectives and actions for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity within Reading:

• Legislation – to ensure our plans and actions comply with current legislation;
• Designated sites – management, monitoring and selection;
• Planning and building control – ensuring that there is no net loss and where achievable a net gain of biodiversity on development sites;
• Woodlands, trees and hedgerows – management and identification of new woodlands;
• Grasslands and road verges – including opportunities for wildflowers & pollinators;
• The two rivers, their floodplains and other watercourses – ensuring that the wildlife of watercourses and surrounds is maintained and enhanced, including opportunities for habitat creation;
• Management of Council projects and the sale of land – how the Council will take wildlife into account in its projects and land sales;
• Education, access to nature, public engagement & volunteering – how the public will be engaged in the strategy;
• Ecological records – to continue and improve the maintenance of these records;
• Species and habitat-specific actions – identify priority species for Reading;
• Connectivity – to improve the connection of habitats to allow for movement;
• Co-ordinated across council departments and within policy documents – ensuring all of the Council’s plans are pulling in the same direction;
• Global biodiversity – actions the Council and partners can make to avoid contributing to global biodiversity loss
• Ongoing review – how the Council will monitor and review the strategy.

The action plan has been drawn up with the help of a number of partners and groups with interest in biodiversity and would be kept under regular review over its lifetime.

Cllr Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “Although a largely urban environment, Reading is incredibly rich in biodiversity along its rivers, in its parks, gardens and open spaces.
“The draft action plan is now open for comment and sets out how we will conserve, enhance and reverse the decline of biodiversity in Reading, which is a vital part of our response to the climate emergency.
“We want to restore, extend and create new wildlife sites and habitats. The new plan puts forward approaches such as trialling cutting large road verges with rich wildflower populations less frequently, and identifying areas within parks that could be managed as longer grassland with wildflowers for pollinators.
“I would urge residents to take some time to read through the draft strategy and feedback their thoughts.”

As well as viewing the draft Tree Strategy and BAP online at www.reading.gov.uk/treestrategy-biodiversity

People can also provide comments via email to planning.naturalenvironment@reading.gov.uk 

Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email victoria.nickless@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 3957