RBWM urged to 'do more' after Tories plant 10,000 trees


Trees in Braywick Park, Maidenhead

The planting of 10,000 trees across Windsor and Maidenhead is 'great news' but the council must 'do more', according to a greenbelt campaign group member.

Debbie Ludford, who is part of a team which has petitioned for a 'Maidenhead Great Park' on the golf course, thinks that more attention needs to be paid to the amount of trees and green space lost to make way for various developments in the town. 

The Maidenhead Conservatives announced last month that they had planted a total of 10,000 trees in two years across the Royal Borough, up from a target of 2,000 which was promised in the party's manifesto at the 2019 local elections. 

The Tories say that the work will help fulfil the council's environment and climate strategy, which was adopted in December, and has pledged to 'go even further' with its tree planting efforts. 

But while Ms Ludford was pleased to hear that the council was busy planting new trees, she did have some concerns, particularly around the controversial housing plans for Maidenhead Golf Course and the implications on vegetation there. 

"I welcome that and it is great news," she said. "But we need to do more, and I think we also need to save existing trees.

"New trees are really important for the future but they take time to grow and maximise the benefits that they can provide for wildlife and people.

"And the trees on the golf course, the majority of them are more than 100 years old and at the moment there is no protection for those. 

"From our point of view we are very worried because we know they [the council] are planning to build 2,000 homes there, so we are concerned about how many trees are going to be lost.

"A lot of people do not understand how big that development is."

Above: Golfers playing on Maidenhead Golf Course, which is earmarked for 2,000 homes

Ms Ludford added: "We need to plant new trees, but we also need to protect existing habitats because otherwise we are just going backwards.

"We are very concerned about the scale of the developments and how you can protect habitats, but also build flats and houses. 

"For us, it does not seem very realistic. Clearly the best way to protect habitats and the green space would be not to build there."

The Windsor and Maidenhead council's lead member for climate change and sustainability, Councillor Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary's), has reassured there will be green space retained within plans for Maidenhead Golf Course. 

She added that a 'Biodiversity Action Plan' is being created by residents and councillors to ensure that there is not a habitat in the borough that 'we are not looking after'.

"With the golf course, we are not developing the whole site obviously," Cllr Stimson said. "There will be lots of open space and we are definitely not going to be felling trees."

Cllr Stimson (pictured below) also said that this location was full of 'green deserts' which have 'very little biodiversity', and added that the grass there is 'cut really close', and so poses no benefit to wildlife. 

"It is an incredibly difficult balance that we have to strike," she said. "We have to carefully distinguish between what is a place we can build on for the housing need, and the places that we can enjoy as open spaces - and then the places that are important for biodiversity.

"It is not just about planting trees, it is about so many other things."

When asked what would be happening to the biodiversity on Maidenhead Golf Course, Cllr Stimson said she would be 'looking after it' as the plans there approach an awaited date with the planning committee. 

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