Nature and climate change

The natural environment is generally considered an ally in the battle against climate change as woodland, grassland, wetland and soils can all lock up carbon if managed correctly. But the natural environment is also threatened by the impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures will be higher in the town than that in the surrounding countryside due to the ‘urban heat island’ effect. More intense periods of rain and drought are expected, with impacts on natural habitats and increased competition for water resources to meet the needs of people, business and the environment.

Changes to vegetation and soil will affect many species and in ways that we have not seen before. More research is needed to gauge the way different species are affected, but we can expect more intense competition for food in times of drought and flood and impacts on the life cycle of certain species if they, or their prey, are dependent on particular plants at specific times. Whether climate change could lead to local or regional extinction is yet to be determined, but we know that certain species have not yet recovered from population crashes in the 1970s. Climate change also means that new, non-native and invasive species could colonise the area.

The COVID-19 lockdown highlighted the importance of people having access to greenspace where they live as it became even more vital for the health and wellbeing of people and communities as other activities were subject to restrictions. This underlines the importance of managing greenspace in a way which helps addresses climate challenges whilst improving access for people.

Progress to date

While Reading is predominantly an urban borough, the importance of its green areas and open spaces is increasingly recognised – not just for their own sake, but for the benefits they offer to our health and wellbeing. Examples of this include:

  • The adoption of policies in the Local Plan to ensure that green spaces are joined up and that new development delivers a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity
  • The launch of the ‘Trees for Reading’ initiative which seeks to increase tree cover in the town
  • ‘Rewilding’ trials have been initiated by Reading Borough Council, reducing the frequency of mowing on selected highway verges to benefit wildflowers and wildlife, with initial feedback from the public proving very positive

Priorities on the pathway to net zero for nature and key adaptation issues

There is growing recognition of the role which ‘nature-based solutions’ can play in delivering climate change mitigation, and more information on this can be downloaded from the ReadingCAN website. Key priorities in this respect are:

  • Managing existing natural habitats to sequester and store more carbon: by increasing the amount of permanent cover (including but not restricted to tree cover) and managing greenspace differently in the town and, perhaps even more important, increasing the storage of carbon within the soil, the natural environment can make a significant contribution to reducing Reading’s
    carbon footprint Managing dead and dying plant material to leave in situ wherever possible or managed to return carbon and minerals to the soil
  • Ensuring that new development delivers a ‘net gain’ for the environment: as Reading grows we need to ensure that national and local planning policies requiring a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity are observed, so that new and restored habitats can help us mitigate the causes and adapt to the impacts of climate change
  • Creating and enhancing wildlife corridors through Reading: by joining up natural and semi-natural habitats we can increase the value of Reading’s greenspaces as carbon stores and sinks, as well as making it easier for people and wildlife to adapt to climate impacts

Increasing vegetation cover will reduce the urban heat island effect and improve air quality. Street trees will provide shade in the town and encourage cycling and walking, while hedgerows will offer shade and some protection from wind.

By increasing permeable surfaces in the town, we can allow water to infiltrate the soils rather than run-off to increase flood risk. Some green spaces may also be able to store water for lengthy periods to mitigate flood risk in the town. The type of planting, the management of top growth and soils, and the management of water all need to change across the town; not just in gardens and green spaces, but also in car parks, road verges and vertical spaces.

Green corridors – along transport routes, waterways as well as in parks and open spaces – provide a route for wildlife to move through the town and colonise different spaces which will improve their resilience as local conditions change. Since we expect higher temperatures and risk of drought, as well as more intense periods of rain, these corridors need to contain areas that are big enough to provide shade and shelter as well as areas of higher ground.

Creating and improving these wildlife corridors will be beneficial to people as well. They will provide shade for people as they move through the town and additional greenery to reduce the urban heat island effect, improve air quality and enhance the townscape.

Gardens are an important resource for nature and higher temperatures, more intense rainfall and periods of drought in the future means that changes are needed in the way we manage our gardens to mitigate the impact of climate change and continue to provide a useful habitat for a range of species.

The green corridors and gardens referred to above are very important for wildlife, but the town needs a coherent approach as well to mitigate the direct impact of high temperatures on human health as well as on biodiversity. Emergency cool areas may be created in hospitals and public buildings, but most buildings could benefit from tree planting to provide shade, and perhaps green walls and roofs reducing internal temperature gains (as well as warming in winter). The nature theme action plan therefore looks at ways to modify the built environment to mitigate the climate change impacts, complementing actions in the water, health and low carbon development themes.

Nature Theme Action Plan: By 2025 the people of Reading will live in a greener town with changes to the management of open spaces and the green links between them that store more carbon as well as giving shade for hot summers, corridors for wildlife and some flood control. New developments will include biodiversity net gain and water management, and there will be exemplar sites showing how to change planting and soil management around buildings to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Action plans

Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
Increasing tree cover
across the town
» Plant more street trees
» Test new planting options in town centre and on the road network
» Promote trees in private gardens/ business/ schools
» Encourage tree and hedge planting in air pollution
hotspots esp. schools
» Enable more street tree planters
» Promote use of degradable tree planting maps and tubes
Link: Education, Transport
Targets per updated Biodiversity Action Plan &
RBC Tree Strategy (NB resources for and timing of
implementation may be influenced by England Tree
Strategy, publication of which is awaited)
Publish guidance on RCAN website
2 school hedges/year
Review policies for traffic restrictions
Policy for council planting; publish guidance
for householders
RBC to adopt Tree
Strategy 2020
Planting programme
to 2025
Reading Borough Council
Ethical Reading
Tree Wardens (RTWN)
Nature Task Force
Thames Water
Managing land to
store more carbon and
increase biodiversity
» Review methods to protect existing stored carbon and relative
benefits of different land uses
» Identify optimum practical and effective management systems
for retaining carbon in Reading
» Feedback into review of management of Council land
Conduct literature review
Feedback into review of Council land management
and planting programme
Reading Borough Council
University of Reading
Nature Task Force
Berks, Bucks & Oxon
Wildlife Trust
Explore use of biochar
and charcoal
» Research on cost benefit of charcoal and biochar
» Expect results to show that expensive to purchase but beneficial for tree
growth and resilience to climate change and should be part of planting
» Seek opportunities to make charcoal from local forestry waste
to sell locally and reduce imports and to dig into the soils
to sequester carbon
Research undertaken
RBC ground maintenance policies and planting
policies revised accordingly
Advice leaflets for householders on RCAN website
2023 University of Reading
Reading Borough Council
Local charcoal makers
Coppice Federation
Review Council parks
and woodlands
» Survey land, including allotments, and make recommendations that
increase carbon storage, flood control, and Biodiversity Action Plan
delivery, compatible with increased public use for health
Link: Water, Health
Survey minimum four sites per year
Recommend management changes
From 2020 Reading BC
Nature Task Force
Reading Tree
Wardens Network
Test different
management of parks,
verges and roundabouts
» Review mowing regimes in parks
» Consider measures like extending tree cover, scrub regeneration and
conservation grassland
» Consider options for managing roadside verges/roundabouts
» Test, review and implement preferred options
» Accompany changes with public education campaign
Annual meeting to review options for evidencebased changes
Consider options for changing mowing/planting Community groups
on 6 area/yr of verge/roundabouts and 2 areas in
Review impact and extend across town
From 2021
From 2021
From 2020
Reading Borough Council
Nature Task Force
Community groups
Planning for
replacement for ash
» Decide which areas to be left for regeneration with resistant ash
» Decide on replacement species on Council land where necessary
» Grow on local material to plant out (potential schools project)
Link: Education
Review Council woodlands and revise management
2 year collection of seeds with schools
2 per year
RBC Parks
‘Friends of’ groups
Nature Task Force
Community groups
Kennet Meadows
Review options to increase carbon storage and biodiversity through:
» Maintaining water levels through the year
» increasing granularity of livestock management to form a mosaic of swards
» Before and after surveys required for carbon capture and biodiversity
Links: Water
Discussions underway.
Completion targets and dates to be agreed
TBA Land Owners
Environement Agency
Reading Borough Council
Nature Task Force
Thames Water
Increase hedgerows
» Survey existing hedgerows and suggest new hedgelines/infill
» Schools encouraged to have hedge boundaries to mitigate air pollution
» Hedgerows promoted along cycle routes/ walking routes for air pollution
mitigation and shade
Links: Health
Review hedgerows as part of wildlife corridor
survey at 10km/year
Target schools and park boundaries for priority
Annual report
2 per year from 2021
Nature Task Force
to survey
Landowners to plant
and maintain
Food waste/green
» Support no dig cultivation, home composting/ worm bins
» Disseminate information on food fermentation and support larger scale
waste trials
» Seek University research to quantify effects
Information on RCAN website and links to other
Support 2 trials: data required before end of RE3
Nature Task Force
Community groups
University of Reading
Museum of English
Rural Life
Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
Compensatory habitat
restoration/offsets for
urban development
» Baseline review of the likely requirements for habitat compensation and
biodiversity net gain due to development of sites in the Local Plan
» Financial mechanism developed
System to be set up
RBC planning
Identifying wildlife
» Working from the green links shown in the Local Plan, and revision
of the Biodiversity Action Plan, identify primary and secondary routes
» Agree any changes/additions changes with RBC planning department
and Council
Identify routes and mark on plan for transfer to
RBC Geographical Information System
2020 RBC planning
BAP review/NTF
RBC Parks & Highways
Assessing the quality of
wildlife corridors
» Review existing data
» Walk through and rapid assessment of accessible land
» List priorities for enhancement on public land and community land
Link: Community, Health
Start within year 1, 10km a year
reports on the corridor survey
Annual from 2020-
Reading Borough Council
Nature Task Force
Community groups
Network Rail
Managing the impact of
development areas on
wildlife corridors
» Ensure design and planting on development sites contributes to wildlife
» Ensure connectivity through developments with appropriate
supplemental planning guidance
» Align with objectives of revised Biodiversity Action Plan and/or green
infrastructure strategy/plan
Supplementary Planning Document published 2021
Reading Borough Council
Berkshire Local
Nature Partnership
Species protection/
» Biodiversity Action Plan develops objectives for increasing/recovery
of identified key species
» Ensure these are fed into management methods and changes in wildlife
Develop land management objectives
Implement from:
Reading Borough Council
Nature Task Force
University of Reading
enhancement pilots
» Meet/work with residents associations/ community groups
» Offer regular workshops/newsletter input/other methods to support
changes in these areas
Link: Community
Identify 2 areas to participate including
an area of deprivation
Review impact relative to other areas
Nature Task Force
Community groups
Data recording/
» Request that all new data go onto TVERC, irecord or data systems that
link with TVERC (Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre)
» Recruit volunteers for recording
» Encourage householders to take part in garden surveys/ TV projects
Link: Community
Contact all local groups
Recruit volunteers
Publicise surveys undertaken by others
Each year
Nature Task Force
Community groups
University of Reading
Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
Provide Information on
» Provide information on climate resilience and wildlife friendly gardening
» Improving soil structure and promote water reuse
» Promote exemplar sites – eg council, church, school
Links: Water, Health, Education
Information published on RCAN website
2 exemplar projects by:
Q4 2020
Nature Task Force
Community groups
Reading Borough Council
Greening front
gardens and reducing
» Provide information and links to potential designs for increasing green
cover and reducing hardstanding
» Hold seminar for developers
» Seek TV support for project, eg Gardener’s World
Links: Water, Energy and LCD
Information by end 2021
Contact TV options
Nature Task Force
Interaction with garden
» Encourage garden centres to introduce a wildlife friendly and climate
change adaptation section
» Peat-free labelling of composts
Link: Business
Programme introduced 2020 Nature Task Force
Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
Green Infrastructure
Using green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions from buildings and
promote urban cooling, e.g.:
» Promote green walls and roofs on new build
» Promote green roofs on existing single storey structures
» Plant for shading of cycle/pedestrian routes
» Research on impacts of green infrastructure required
Links: Energy & LCD, Water, Transport, Health
In local plan. May need supplementary planning
Advice published on RCAN website
Research projects to evaluate effects
SPD 2022
Reading Borough Council
Nature Task Force
University of Reading
Develop green space to
enable increased health
Tree/hedge planting to provide shade, reduce particulate pollution and
oxides of nitrogen
Links: Health
Part of reviews referred to in N4 above Ongoing from 2020 Landowners
Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
Raising awareness in
the community
» Identify two areas in the town, including an area of deprivation, to
concentrate existing resources to test ideas and communication methods
for dissemination
» Extend proven ideas to other areas
Links: All themes, Business, Community
2 target areas identified and developed Identify test areas
by 2021;
Extend to four areas
by 2025
Nature Task Force
Advice service for
» Provide advice to schools/ community groups/for wildlife friendly
gardening/ water efficient gardening/recycling in the garden
Links: Water, Education, Community, Adaptation
Offer half day advice service to up to 20
organisations a year, plus online leaflets
Advice service from
Nature Task Force
Support schools in
their climate change
» Provide list of support actions available through ReadingCAN or external
sources to enhance existing systems (e.g. ecoschools), and distribute
Links: Education, Communication and Engagement
Create option list for schools
Offer 8 support activities a year
From 2021
Nature Task Force
Supporting Businesses
and NGOs in their
climate change
» Make opportunities for groups to do practical work via Team Challenge
Link: Business, Communication and Engagement
6 actions a year Set up
by 2021
Reading Borough Council
Nature Task Force
The Conservation
Identify opportunities
for green prescribing
» Produce a list of groups willing to provide options for social prescribing
and make available to local GPs
Links: Health
List available to RBC Public Health 2021 Nature Task Force

Areas where you can help

Take a look at the areas where you can make a positive change, today

Individuals | Eating & Drinking |

Choose local and seasonal produce

Read on


Individuals | Eating & Drinking |

Reduce food waste

Read on


Individuals | Eating & Drinking |

Cook from scratch

Read on


Individuals | Eating & Drinking |

Eat more vegetables

Read on


Follow us on Instagram for more tips and updates