Striving to protect green spaces and plant more trees is South Oxfordshire’s new tree champions.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) has appointed the chairman of the planning committee, councillor Ian Snowdon to be the first tree champion.

Mr Snowdon moved the motion that was passed unanimously by the council after he had dealt with numerous problems with planning applications and tree preservation orders (TPO).

His motion was to promote the value of trees and woodlands in tackling the climate and ecological emergencies, encourage people to reconnect with nature and woodlands for further environmental and health and wellbeing.

The councillor wants to promote woodland protection and conservation and tree growing initiatives in South Oxfordshire. He wants to work with officers to promote a tree policy and strategy and raise awareness of the protection of trees and woodland.

The new role will be shared with the vice chairman of the SODC planning committee Peter Dragonetti. Mr Snowdon said he is thankful the role will be shared as he believes it is an important job.

Mr Snowdon hopes the new role will bring authority and provide the community with someone to go to with their tree quires.

In the past year there have been several problems over planning applications and TPOs.

Read also: Plans for 4,000 homes on Valley Park near Didcot delayed

In March 2020, residents on Brasenose Road battled against plans to build homes on the triangle of green space that has been used by the community since the 1960s.

Another case saw changes made to a cycle path planned along Wantage Road in Didcot after a resident pointed out the path went very close to protected trees.

Once this problem was raised with tree officers at Oxfordshire County Council it was realised there was something wrong. Now, the designs have been redrawn and changes have been made in the way cycle paths are designed near trees in future.

Mr Snowdon also highlighted that Ladygrove East only has two protected trees, and yet, developers have drawn plans for new homes in this area which do not consider the TPO’s in place.

Mr Snowdon said: “I highlighted it to my two ward councillors for Ladygrove, because with just a bit of tweaking of the plans it can be amended.”

The councillor explained he wants to make sure trees get a very strong policy in the next local plan and make sure they are at the forefront of planning applications.

He does not just want to protect trees, but also plant more in line with Government targets.

Mr Snowdon said: “There are so many housing estates around Didcot. In these new housing developments, it is so important to have open green spaces for mental health reasons and yet we are chopping down the last few green spaces in the towns.

“I will definitely be trying to move a motion next to protect our remaining open green spaces.”

He added: “We are lucky in South Oxfordshire to have so many trees, compared to places like Oxford. I aim not just to preserve but improve and increase the green spaces.”

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