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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 worry – there’s still time to be the voice trees need in this!