PUBLIC consultations on a new tree strategy and a biodiversity action plan have begun as part of Reading Borough Council's (RBC) plans to tackle the climate emergency.

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 the town towards a becoming a net-zero carbon town by 2030.

Both consultations run until July 10.

READ MORE: WATCH: Nurse among Reading neighbours sharing £3MILLION lottery prize

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

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, and 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 per cent to 25 per cent by 2030, ensuring every single ward contains at least 12 per cent 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

Councillor Karen Rowland, RBC'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 per cent 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.”

READ MORE: Calcot Ikea reopens for first time since lockdown

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.

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.”

People can read the draft Tree Strategy and Draft Biodiversity Action Plan and have their say here.