I am very pleased to see that trees have gained a line in the budget, with Tree Inspections being allocated £80,000 for each of the next three years. Trees perform an enormously valuable service by sequestering carbon, filtering particulate matter, stabilising ground water levels to alleviate flood risk, and fostering biodiversity whether alive or dead. Indeed, there have been several attempts to place a monetary value on their service, and while it depends on variables such as maturity and location, a tree's value ranges from a few hundred to several thousand pounds in cost avoidance. As you estimate that the Council is responsible for around 100,000 trees, would you not agree that, given the value of their service, 80p per tree is hopelessly inadequate?
Thank you for your very good question and I could not agree with you more for your very valid comments about the very important role that trees perform in protecting our environment.
The budget to support trees in the Borough is not limited to the item proposed through the Medium Term Financial Plan over the next three years that you referred to. Incidentally, this allocation of £80,000 is to fund a further two members of staff to enable the Council to fulfil its duty to inspect all of the trees on its own land in the interests of public safety; and as you can well imagine to protect the public we must do that. This is in line with an updated Tree Inspection Policy which will be considered under the Executive Member Decision, that is myself, on 31st March 2021. Works to trees identified through this inspection regime are undertaken and covered by other budgets.
Trees are an important focus of the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan. In addition to the Tree Inspection Team, the Council employs a number of specialist Tree and Landscape Officers to ensure that important and healthy trees are protected from development. In line with the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, the Council is preparing a Tree Strategy and a plan to deliver a further 250,000 trees in the Borough. Mr Shenton, I am sure you will very, very, readily agree with that fantastic initiative to satisfy the carbon neutral initiative that we wish to obtain by 2030.
I remain slightly concerned that the area is being under resourced because our native deciduous hardwoods are now facing serious threats from an increasing range of pests and diseases. For example, given that ash dieback is likely to disseminate our ash tree population what percentage of the Council’s tree cover is under threat and where is the budget to replace those soon to be lost trees?
Like I said we pay due attention to all the trees within the Borough whether they are owned by Wokingham Borough Council or whether they are privately owned as well. We do all our best to protect those trees from any pesticides or any other insects or whatever that might attack them and we work with the Wokingham District Veteran Tree Association which is a very active organisation and we work with that organisation to protect our trees.