The chance for the people of Doncaster to vote for their directly elected Mayor on Thursday 2 May offers a great opportunity for everyone to ensure that trees and woodland are high up on the agenda for the successful candidate.
The last Mayoral election in Doncaster four years ago was won by Peter Davies for the English Democrats, Mr Davies is running for re-election this time as an independent and he is opposed by nine other candidates.
As a charity, the Woodland Trust does not have a view as to whom the people of Doncaster should choose as their Mayor. But we do strongly believe that trees and woods play a crucial role in creating healthy communities and places where people want to live, work and spend their leisure time. A Mayor needs to show the kind of environmental leadership that harnesses these benefits for the community. Despite the squeeze on public and private finance, trees and woods offer real value for money and can even reduce expenditure particularly in an urban environment – as shown in our Trees & Turf publication. The recent Trees in the Townscape guide produced by the Trees & Design Action Group (TDAG) emphasises this with a wide range of compelling case studies, commenting: ‘Trees make places work, look and feel better’. And as we all continue to grapple with issues like climate change, flood management, air quality and growing public health issues, the importance of planting and protecting trees and woodland has never been more vital.
The new threat from a variety of tree diseases means that it’s crucial we plant more trees to replace those which may be lost in the future: in Doncaster and throughout the country trees really do need our help, more than ever before!
To ensure candidates appreciate all these benefits, we are suggesting that Doncaster residents ask each of them some key questions about their plans for trees and woodland. In particular, around the need to protect and restore what remains of the local ancient woodland, how they would improve access to trees and woods for the people of Doncaster and how much new woodland they promise to create.
Doncaster people can ask candidates these questions directly, or ask candidates in person when they meet them out canvassing or at local hustings.
We work for trees and woodland in Doncaster and the surrounding area in partnership with other organisations such as the South Yorkshire Forest, the Forestry Commission and the South Yorkshire Local Nature Partnership. We all agree that trees and woods must be a key component of an integrated and well-planned network of green infrastructure to serve the people of South Yorkshire.
So if you live in Doncaster, we hope you will join in our campaign to push woodland up the Mayoral election agenda! And if you don’t live there you can still help by passing on our message to any friends, business associates or family in the area. You can also follow us on Twitter @treesnick or @woodlandtrust.
And above all, if you have a vote in elections on 2 May, in Doncaster or elsewhere, please use it to help create a healthy, well-treed local environment for the benefit of everyone in your community.
Nick Sandford, Regional and Local Government Officer (North East and North West England)