In the full council meeting on Monday 24 Feb, Cherwell District Council voted unanimously to support a motion calling on the doubling of tree cover in the district by 2045. Green Councillor Ian Middleton introduced an amendment to the motion calling on the council to be more ambitious in its proposals and to achieve the doubling of tree numbers by 2030 in line with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency.
Speaking during the debate, Cllr Middleton disagreed with Conservative claims that the 2045 target was the only one that was achievable and that the council should only aim to double tree cover “as far as possible”.
Cllr Middleton said, “We have declared a climate change emergency. Emergency measures call for committed and ambitious actions, not vague aspirations and get-out clauses. The climate takes no prisoners. It doesn’t care what we think is possible, it only responds to what is needed. We need to move faster and be more ambitious in our climate change mitigation measures and take into account the impact of all council policies on climate change.”
Cllr Middleton’s amendment was supported by Labour and Independent members, but blocked by the Conservatives.
As if to prove the point, in a later debate on the main modifications to the local plan partial review, campaigners from North Oxford Golf Club pleaded with the council to protect their 103 year old club grounds from proposed development. This would include the destruction of a large number of trees. The Council’s proposals also call for the release of yet more green belt land and the virtual erasure of the previously sacrosanct ‘Kidlington Gap’.
Labour and Lib Dem councillors opposed the motion along with Ian Middleton for the Greens. The proposals were agreed with all but one Conservative voting them through.
Cllr Middleton commented, “Yet again we see Cherwell’s Conservatives talking the talk on climate change, but when it comes to positive action they default to business as usual.
“It makes no sense to anyone other than Cherwell’s Tories to propose a measure to increase tree numbers in the district in one motion and then vote in the very same meeting to destroy hundreds of mature trees in the face of massive opposition from local residents and environmental campaigners.
“It’s clear from this, and from the lack of any solid progress on the climate emergency proposals 6 months on from passing them, that Cherwell’s Conservatives simply want to box-tick the climate change issue, whilst pursuing broader policies on unnecessary growth that will be hugely damaging to the environment.”
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