By Local Democracy reporter Ciaran Duggan
More than 1.5million trees will be planted across Kent as part of the county council’s commitment to adapting to climate change.
Kent County Council has pledged to plant a tree for every person who lives within the authority’s area – which totals just over 1.5million – in an effort to protect and enhance the county’s natural landscape.
A KCC working group is now being set up to formulate a policy to achieve this, which includes finding suitable sites for planting of the trees.
Cllr Matthew Balfour (Con) welcomed the plan and described it as “sensible” during a meeting of KCC’s environment and transport committee at Maidstone County Hall yesterday (January 23).
The vice-chairman of Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty said: “We are dealing with a varied county, lots of which is already built up and choked in places like Dartford.
“You do not live as long if you live anywhere near the Dartford tunnel.”
Pressure has been placed on KCC to act amid the growing threat of a killer fungus, Ash Dieback, which could cause the death of around half a million ash trees already growing on KCC’s estate.
Kent’s most widespread tree is European Ash and when the fungus evolves, the tree has no natural defence against the incurable disease.
Originating from Asia, the fungus spores can blow many miles away, landing on other trees and penetrating inside until it blocks its water transport systems, causing it to die.
Cllr Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem), a member of the new working group, said: “I have seen many trees chopped down in my division over the past 10 years and not been able to get a penny out of KCC of putting them back.
“It’s cost me £50,000 out of my devolved budget. I welcome this and fully support it.”
New trees will take up to 30 years to mature, meaning it will be a long time before any significant environmental benefits are felt from the policy.
Cllr Susan Carey (Con), cabinet member for environment, said: “Our officers have taken this concept and made it so much better by enlarging it and making it about natural capital.”
A KCC paper published to the committee last week adds: “This report describes the context for a natural capital policy which will encompass the commitment to plant a tree for every head of population in Kent, but as part of a wider framework to protect, enhance and use Kent’s natural capital to manage and adapt to climate change and support biodiversity.”
Th cross-party group’s progress will be presented as part of report to KCC’s environment and transport committee in March.