Mediterranean trees unlikely to be popping up in Oxfordshire – despite suggestions they may help to combat climate change

The idea cropped up as Oxfordshire County Council's new tree policy, adopted by the cabinet last month, was among the new measures put before all councillors
Mediterranean trees are unlikely to be popping up in Oxfordshire despite suggestions they may help to combat climate change.Mediterranean trees are unlikely to be popping up in Oxfordshire despite suggestions they may help to combat climate change.
Mediterranean trees are unlikely to be popping up in Oxfordshire despite suggestions they may help to combat climate change.

Mediterranean trees are unlikely to be popping up in Oxfordshire despite suggestions they may help to combat climate change.

The idea cropped up as Oxfordshire County Council's new tree policy, adopted by the cabinet last month, was among the new measures put before all councillors.

The policy created a “presumption in favour of trees” to "maximise canopy cover opportunities and address the climate emergency".

A council report noted: “For most of the past 30 years, Oxfordshire County Council has focused on maintaining existing trees on a reactive basis, managing down the cost impact and potential risks trees bring.

“Therefore, there have been unambitious policies and minimal investment overall in the county council’s treescape, which includes highways, public rights of way, schools, estates, facilities and other land holdings. The most significant omission has been tree planting.”

Councillor Bob Johnston (Lib Dem, Kennington & Radley) made an observation about the types of trees the council may go for but Councillor Pete Sudbury (Green, Wallingford), the cabinet member for climate change delivery and environment, explained that British trees are resilient enough to serve their purpose.

Cllr Johnston said: “Summers are going to get very hot and dry. I read recently that many experts in this field have suggested that when looking at tree planting policies, councils should consider planting Mediterranean species in addition to native species in so far as they are much more resilient in the face of heat and drought.”

Cllr Sudbury replied: “The tree policy does include climate resilience for flood and drought as one of its criteria, along with (the use of) UK-grown or quarantined trees because the importation of diseases is a disaster.

“Large, shade-producing trees are preferred by highways if we can get them. Native trees or those with a long history in this country, including oak, elm and sweet chestnut, are also found in southern Europe so are probably resilient.

“The other criteria are that they may provide food for humans or creatures, that they can be used for timber or they can provide unique habitats and I think oaks, willows and birches are particularly rich in biodiversity, although oaks tend to have a habit of undermining foundations so they may not be good in built-up areas.”

Cllr Sudbury was also asked how the plans may be expanded for maximum effect.

“The next policy is on verges, vegetation and pathways, footpaths particularly because as Councillor (Donna) Ford’s motion pointed out, the cutting regimes may need to be very different by a footpath compared with the ideal cutting regime for a verge where you can improve biodiversity,” he added.