Branching out in the race between Boris and co

Well, we’re now about midway through the election campaign period for London’s next Mayor. And it’s becoming clear that the environment (not least trees and woods) is pretty low down as a priority for all the candidates standing.

** Update: April 25th **

Three candidates have responded to our supporter’s questions – you can see who has replied and what they said here: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/londonelections

From Newsnight’s recent Mayoral special, to public hustings, to candidate’s own literature it feels as if the vital role trees play in London is still struggling to find a place in this debate. Even during the Evening Standard’s debate which was chaired by broadcaster and former barrister Clive Anderson (who happens to also be the Woodland Trust’s President). What a shame as trees especially are so valuable in an urban area! Are trees and woods being ignored, or just taken for granted? I’m not sure which is the most disappointing.

Of course it’s a fine balance in such a huge place with so many pressing issues, and in the face of such challenges as effective policing and public transport. We’d agree that whoever is elected needs to be rounded in many aspects of city life, not just green issues. Trees and woodland make positive impacts on so many areas of city life though – and not just the obvious.  They give so much to all of us – from free spaces to exercise to clean air, from flood alleviation to benefiting our economy, and more. It’s vital that London’s Mayor understands this and values your natural landscape at least as much as everything else.

It’s not all gloom. To be fair, lots of good green things have been achieved in the past by different Mayors and there’s been some great work on the go on top of community-led action. Even more encouraging, we’ve seen the Conservative and Green candidates both make specific reference in their 2012 manifesto to plans around green spaces and trees, with Boris Johnson pledging to ‘restore green spaces & plant trees’ while Jenny Jones plans to ‘improve green spaces & the environment’. Add to these the response by UKIP’s Lawrence Webb to our supporter’s questions which includes pledges around funding for schools for tree planting, and restrictions on applications that impact on ancient woods and trees. No doubt there are inspiring ideas for the natural landscape on the tables of the other hopefuls. But I doubt you will have heard much talk about these important aspirations. And so far we’ve only seen replies shared by our supporters from Jenny Jones and Lawrence Webb.  If you’ve heard from candidates about their plans then we’d love to know: send a copy to londonelections@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

One thing’s for sure. Whoever is elected has the power to ensure improved protection and care for London’s woods and trees – especially heritage and special interest trees – and help residents see more across their City.  Our e-action aims to remind both candidates and Londoners themselves that their environment is as important as everything else, and help them realise the many varied ways trees and woods benefit us all.  Don’t worrythere’s still time to be the voice trees need in this!

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About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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22 Responses to Branching out in the race between Boris and co

  1. Pingback: How is London’s wildlife faring? | Woodland Matters

  2. Why did BBC AND Sky News cut away from candidate speeches after top 4 for pointless recap..I’d like to hear what Siobhan Benita & others say

  3. Annette Croneen says:

    Yes surprising I never heard from Ken but I got a prompt response from Jenny! For this reason I will not vote for Ken- and I had considered doing so.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      I saw a reply from Ken over the weekend Annette, have you received yours by now? I’m excited to know who might win the election, it seems to be pretty close!

  4. Tony C says:

    Only a response from the green party for me. Sums up the other candidates and their priorities regarding the health of Londoners.

  5. Keith Lawrence says:

    I had two replies. One of course from the green party. I am really disgusted. Trees a most important part of our lives take a low priority with these characters. God help us they won’t

  6. only had a reply from Jenny think I might tweet that as it seems to be a trend…
    anthony’s points are good; trees are critical for health & environment as well as aesthetics – maintenance is often overlooked in the ‘lets plant trees’ spiel (not by WT obviously!)

  7. same here. only had a reply from Jenny Jones. pretty shameful stuff.

  8. Chris Rose says:

    Only Jenny Jones has replied. I posed some additional questions directed at Ken given his support for river crossings, the east London version of which was to have led to a road through Oxleas Woods (thankfully defeated on that occasion) and asking candidates for a pledge that the planned Crossrail terminal will not lead to widening of roads through Lesnes Abbey Woods (which ought to be a biological and not just geological SSSI). He has not replied.
    Ultimately we must look at the economic policies championed by these candidates. Those who promote never-ending (resource consumption) growth – i.e. all but one of them – cannot credibly promise to protect green spaces and wildlife. They will go in the end, and we will continue to export an ever-increasing ecological footprint overseas as well. The only sustainable economy is a ‘one planet’ one, not the two and three quarter planets one WWF says we have today.

  9. Antony Croft says:

    Apart from the green party I don’t think the other candidates are that bothered about 400 peoples interests in trees. I would personaly like to see some basic questions answered.

    If elected how will trees and in particular ancient and veteran trees AND their associated ecology be protected? Currently there is no really effective way of assuring the true protection and preservation of many trees that whilst not in areas of special designation (SAC/SSSI Schemes) are as much a part of the wider urban forest as those parks and places of higher concern. Not only are the protection measures for the trees within our urban forest failing to really protect trees, but those within special protected areas are afforded very little in the way of funds for the preservation of their health and fitness even though those sites are visited and enjoyed by in some cases many millions of people annually. I want to know if there will be REAL changes that will truly benefit trees, real changes and benefits that will reflect the true Value, ecological services, biodiversity sustaining, mental/physical health benefits assured by trees and in particular ancient and veteran trees which present unique ecosystems in their own right.

    There are systems available for evaluating the true values of trees, at least one of those systems (CAVAT) is truly proving to be a potent tool in assuring the true values of trees are realised and more importantly giving real power to enforce (in court) recompense for damages to trees. I want to know how will our candidates ensure that systems of valuation are fully integrated into the protection of and enforcement of better care and values assigned to our urban tree stocks?

    I would also like to know how candidates might address the funding issues managers of Londons trees face. We have so many issues to deal with in manager trees in the greenest and most urban city forests on the planet. Nobody is giving us the power or the money to make the real changes needed or to focus on the real and very desperate issues facing our urban forest trees.

    It is long overdue that trees where put high up on all our agendas and looked after in a way that truly reflects their values. Think about a statistic for a moment, 7 million people approx pass through Kenwood gate every year, if everyone that passed through that woodland zone deposited a penny at the gate for the care of those trees imagine what we could do with that financial input?

    Then times that by the number of people who enjoy London and the surrounding counties parks, street trees etc.

    My highest concern currently for our urban trees is the most neglected issue at this time, the soils. Trees need healthy soils, and no one is paying us to manage the damages done by the impacts of man in our highly populated areas, our green areas are becoming so polluted and compacted by the volumes of people and its time to start addressing the problem NOW. If a hydrology survey was carried out over the area of the candidates jurisdiction the results would be horrifying!

    Compaction is a huge problem for our urban trees, as is the urea and excrement from dogs, it is a distasteful subject that is not being discussed or highlighted, so what will our candidates do to avert this unseen ecological disaster in the making?

    I do not want to hear PR and shallow promises, I want some real answers and solutions to the massive issues facing the urban forests, so come on candidates, stop trying to spin and get on with winning OUR votes.

  10. Valerie Weber says:

    I received a speedy reply from Jenny Jones, saying all you’d expect from a Green candidate, but no one else has bothered. Pity I already vote Green, it’d like to think she gained an extra vote for her dedication to taking potential constituents seriously.

    • Shona says:

      Valerie – like you I got a speedy reply from Jenny Jones, well done to her; but what of those other candidates – it’s not as if they actually have to reply themselves their office will know the ‘line’ and could do it – all a bit shoddy!

      • Kaye Brennan says:

        Shona, Valerie – I hope you’ve had replies from your other chosen candidates by now? It certainly took a while for both Ken and Boris to get back to people, there’s been a real flurry of replies sent to us since Monday!

  11. Good round up Kaye – thanks for the summary of the candidate’s positions. I just want priority given to trees and green spaces, especially for communities that don’t have their own gardens or access to something similar already. So important in a city like London to have these outlets for people and their kids. Take this one for example near Kings Cross St Pancras > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lRGupv9H7M

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Great video, thanks Gethyn! Who knew that lovely green space was so close to Kings Cross! I will definitely check it out next time I visit the City

  12. Kaye Brennan says:

    By the way – I checked back on our e-action earlier to find that each candidate has now been sent over 400 emails. Now them’s some busy inboxes – and we know your trees aren’t the only issues here. No wonder not every one has got to replying yet!
    Let us know below if you have had a response from your chosen candidates – and if this post reaches as far as what must be 7 extremely busy election offices, then Siobhan, Brian, Boris, Carlos, and Ken (I know they have responded to many of our supporters so far but of course, Jenny and Lawrence )… nothing beats a personal reply, but you’re all welcome to share your plans here below too (- sounds like your outbox will thank you for it as well!)

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