On trying to find a tree so I can hug one
By Tim Andrews The Fulbourn Fenman
The Lib Dems had a fanfare for their ‘Doubling Nature’ strategy. It’s their big thing at South Cambs District Council where they’ve been in charge for the past three years.
Sounds good so I decided to have a look at the detail of what they are saying, I started with trees because trees are the super-heroes of the natural world.
Trees combat climate change. They absorb CO2, store the carbon and release oxygen back. Trees help clean air by trapping particulates and polluting gases. Trees provide havens for wildlife, giving birds and insects somewhere to live.
Local Councils use a measure known as ‘tree canopy’. It means how much of the ground is covered by leaves and branches. According to the Forestry Commission, across England the average tree canopy is 16%. 20% is reckoned to be a good target for urban forest.
What’s the situation here? The South Cambs document says we have fewer trees than parts of England and that the tree canopy should be increased. Pretty vague.
I’m retired now but for many years I was a senior manager. I know about how to make big changes. As well as the desire to achieve, you need three key things. Your starting point, the target you are aiming for and some milestones along the way so you can check your progress.
But hey, this is a difficult thing right so I should cut the Lib Dems some slack?
Let’s see what Labour run Cambridge is up to on trees. There’s masses of information readily available. Including this short video which clearly explains the strategy of increasing the canopy cover from 17% to 19% and that means plant 500 trees a year. The target was set two years ago and yes, Labour Cambridge has already planted 1000 trees and is pledging another 1000.
A challenge for both councils is that they don’t own all that much land. Labour Cambridge has a plan for more trees in private gardens. For example, the ‘Free trees for babies’ gives families a tree that will grow up with their children.
There is a higher tree canopy in the more wealthy parts of Cambridge – they are called ‘leafy’ afterall! So, the council is taking action to level up by giving away trees in low coverage areas for residents to plant in their gardens.
Meanwhile the Lib Dems in South Cambs say: “Currently we are not supplying free trees to plant in your own land and we have very little land to plant any trees on your behalf.”
South Cambs did have a programme last year where they provided a voucher for Parish Councils to buy up to three trees. About 300 young trees in all.
It makes me sad to see such a poor approach locally. But it also makes me proud to be part of Labour when we see the clear plans, ambitious targets and working with the community in nearby Cambridge City. It’s this can-do approach that makes me want to be a Labour councillor too. Vote for me as a County Councillor and I’ll be pushing for a real focus on green.