Reading’s Tree Strategy
Tonight at the ruling Labour Group’s Cabinet meeting I was pleased to speak in support of a report on the tree strategy. As regular readers will recall, this is something which I feel passionately about. Indeed the strategy was the first item I took to the full Council in the year of the Conservative-led Coalition’s year of control. Despite the very difficult economic situation we faced I managed to protect the tree planting budget from cuts for that year and the next.The strategy focusses on planting trees in areas of town which have sparse cover, and replacing trees which have to be felled due to disease and other necessity. The funds allocated by the Council are relatively small and therefore the strategy depended heavily on support from groups like Trees for Cities, the town’s network of Tree Wardens, which I set up, and the willingness of local residents to chip in financially to support the planting of trees in their neighbourhood. The report to Cabinet tonight had examples of all of these key partnerships.
One thing which shone through the report was a plea from the authors for the administration to provide funds for future years to support the strategy and continue planting trees. I was pleased to add my voice to this call and offered to work with the administration in supporting such future funding. I also welcomed the plans to plant more trees in and around Peppard ward. Trees will be planted in Brooklyn Drive, Courtenay Drive, Burnham Rise, All Hallows Road and in the Henley Road Crematorium. A lot of trees have been lost through necessary felling but this partnership work will go a long way to replace these. The same is true in some of the town centre wards.
I did highlight that a key piece of information was missing from the report, namely the number of trees which have been lost. Without this information it is impossible to tell whether we are making progress towards increasing the tree canopy, or moving backwards. To his credit, Cllr Page accepted this point and asked Council officers to make it clearer in future reports which trees are simply replacements and which are net increases. However, I will also continue to press for news of trees felled with no replacement to understand the true picture.
I urge Reading residents to lobby ward Councillors for more trees and for the tree planting budget to be protected next year as the Coalition did and if possible, increased!
Read the Cabinet Report at Agenda Item 15 here.