Formal adoption of Kent Plan Tree – Kent County Council’s Tree Establishment Strategy
In 2019, off the back of the County Council recognising a climate and ecological emergency, the then Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste stated a commitment for 1.5 million trees to be established, a tree for every person in Kent.
Plan Tree, Kent County Council’s Tree Establishment Strategy, sets out how we will turn this ambition into a reality and see tree cover across the county extended.
The Strategy sets an ambition for the county to see tree cover extended by 1.5 million by 2030 and that by 2050, Kent will have an average tree canopy cover of 19% (an increase from the current 17%). The delivery of these new trees, alongside the protection and restoration of existing trees, hedgerow and woodland, will support the recovery of wildlife, provide natural climate solutions and enrich people’s lives. These new trees will be delivered by working in partnership.
Kent County Council aims to contribute directly to this county target by establishing new trees across its own estate. Although our ambitions will be greater, at a very minimum we will establish 28,600 trees per annum on land we own, manage or influence, representing a tree for every person in our own workforce. Further, Kent County Council members will have the opportunity to contribute by establishing trees within their own divisions across the four-year term; based on a target of 350 trees per division, this will account for another 28,350 trees within the county.
All trees established under our Strategy will follow four principles for tree establishment:
1. Better management and protection of existing stock
2. The right tree, in the right place, for the right reason, with the right management.
3. Deliver multiple benefits.
4. Ensure the biosecurity of new tree stock through application of strict standards.
Establishing the right trees, in the right places will help deliver benefits for Kent’s wildlife, people and economy. Through extending tree cover in Kent, and delivering Plan Tree, we aim to deliver the following objectives:
· Contribute to Kent County Council’s, and the county’s, net zero targets.
· Reduce and reverse the trend of decline in nature and loss of trees.
· Tackle the multiple threats to our trees.
· Deliver nature based solutions to some of the county’s challenges.
· Provide enhanced and improved recreation and amenity.
· Address the decline in trees outside woodland and decline in urban trees.
· Realise the economic benefits.
· Increase our knowledge and provide better protection.
The Strategy sets out some specific actions that will be taken to progress delivery of the ambitions and objectives of Plan Tree. These actions focus on:
1. Delivering against the tree establishment target.
2. Exemplar provision for trees on our own estate.
3. Improving protection to trees in Kent.
4. Improving our understanding of Kent’s trees.
5. Developing the Kent carbon offset market for unavoidable emissions.
Plan Tree is specifically referenced under Priority 3 of Framing Kent’s Future – environmental step change. It provides the strategic framework for the delivery of action for extending tree cover in the county, as committed to with the council’s strategy for 2022 to 2026.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;
Decision status: For Determination
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 02/09/2022
Decision due: Not before 1st Oct 2022 by Cabinet Member for Environment
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Environment
Lead director: Matthew Smyth
Department: Growth, Environment & Transport
Kent County Council ran a public consultation on the draft Plan Tree Strategy 8th March and 2nd May 2022 https://letstalk.kent.gov.uk/plantree There were 571 responses – the majority of the responses were from individuals but some local authorities, parish councils and other organisations did submit comments.
The consultation showed strong support for, and agreement with, the Strategy’s ambitions and the objectives of the strategy were extremely popular and well supported. There was strong support for all four of the Strategy’s tree establishment principles. A large majority of respondents considered the Strategy’s high-level actions appropriate and believed they would deliver “to some extent” the Strategy’s ambitions and targets. The consultation suggested that a strong and well resourced implementation plan was required to give confidence in the authority’s long-term commitment to this agenda and ability to deliver.
The draft Plan Tree went to ETCC in November 2021.
The Kent Environment Cross Party Members Group has also been consulted throughout the Strategy’s development.
Cabinet Committee Consultation:
The finalised Strategy will go to the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee for endorsement on 8th September 2022.
Financial implications: Tree establishment in the main will be funded through central government grants. Staff resource is required to access this funding and facilitate establishment projects. The Tree Strategy Officer costs the authority £46.5k per annum. Three additional FTE officers are required to support this work – this will be externally funded through the Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund, which will be providing a total of £300k to enable tree establishment projects to be developed and funded over a 2.5 year period. KCC will be responsible for funding the committed 28,600 trees on land we own, manage or influence and the committed 28,350 trees for member to establish within their divisions at a cost of £300k per annum for an anticipated three years.
Legal implications: There are no legal implications in relation to the draft Kent Tree Establishment Strategy.
Equalities implications: An EqIA has been undertaken. The Strategy itself does not pose any issues or concerns; in fact, increased tree cover within the county is expected to deliver more positive equality impacts than negative. By applying the right trees in the right place principles, and through careful and considered design and planning, we can ensure that we maximise the potential positive impacts of increased tree cover for protected characteristic groups. Inappropriate planting could restrict access or cause obstacles, impacting those with a disability. And where new woodlands are being created, or extensive planting is extending existing woodlands, there is a risk that access could be restrictive for those with a disability. The application of the right tree in the right place principle will ensure that any tree planting does not have unintended consequences. Likewise any new woodlands will be created with visitors in mind take into account a broad range of access issues within their design.