ACT NOW - Speak up for woods and trees in the London Environment Strategy

A green infrastructure will safeguard London's environmental future. (Photo: Hampstead Heath. Loz Pycock/Wikimedia Commons)

With just a few tweaks the Mayor of London’s draft Environment Strategy could be even more promising.

This is the first draft strategy which brings together approaches to every aspect of London’s environment. It's designed to help shift policy into action, to "tackle the most urgent environmental challenges facing the city as well as safeguard London’s environment over the longer term". It aims to ensure that London is "greener, cleaner and ready for the future".

It’s already positive and ambitious (two things we love!) with high targets around new woods and more trees which will really benefit both residents and visitors. It’s encouraging to see such ambition in the UK's largest city.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan

The Trust owns more than 100 hectares of woodland across London over five sites. Schools across London have planted over 100,000 trees, and almost another 100,000 trees have been planted by community groups through our tree pack schemes. So we’re really encouraged to see trees, woodland, 'green infrastructure' and more use of natural solutions play a key part in this important strategy.

This is a crucial opportunity to influence the future direction of the Mayor’s plans and how GLA resources are spent. The GLA has encouraged us to ask Trust members to help make the strategy better by taking part in a consultation.

Over 30,000 Trust supporters are based in London – let’s convince the Mayor that his plans are welcome, and help improve them.

How to take part

1. Respond to the consultation through the GLA's 'Talk London' team. Log in or register with ‘Talk London’ and use our tips below to help you respond to the relevant questions we've identified. 

Respond to the consultation    

2. Comment on our blog, and contribute to any debates you see on that website on behalf of trees and woods  such as the discussion about making London a National Park City.

Comment on our blog    

3. Help us gather relevant points from the Talk London debates for our own response to the LES. Please send these to campaigning@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Email our campaign team    

Tips for your response

The draft London Environment Strategy (LES) is divided into six areas: air quality; green infrastructure; climate change mitigation and energy; waste; adapting to climate change and ambient noise. You can help by sending a supportive message about the strategy in general. We’ve also identified the following questions where trees and woods are included or could be relevant:

Overarching questions

Question 1: Do you agree with the overall vision and principles of this draft London Environment Strategy?
YES. It's good to see the Mayor accept there is a problem, and that the role of the environment in improving health and wellbeing, equality, community cohesion and the economy are all highlighted in the LES. The recognition of the importance of trees and green space to people’s health and wellbeing is also very welcome, as are the proposals for more tree planting and new woodland areas in order to enhance the quality of the urban environment. The aim to increase tree canopy cover by 10% by 2050 is a welcome ambition that can be achieved with resources and commitment. 

Ambient noise

Question 1: Are there any other actions you think the Mayor should be taking to work with the boroughs and other key stakeholders to reduce noise?
YES. As well as helping with air pollution, more street trees and hedges can contribute to reducing noise from roads, so please cross-reference to the Green Infrastructure chapter. Because of their contribution to air quality, noise pollution, flood risk mitigation and alleviation natural solutions should be given more priority than some single-issue technical fixes.

Climate change adaptation

Question 1: Do you think the Mayor's policies and proposals are sufficient to increase London's resilience to climate change?
NO. They are a good first step but more could be done to cross-reference this with the Green Infrastructure chapter, where trees and wooded areas in the right places are proposed as natural solutions to challenges such as flooding and urban over-heating.

Whilst “New and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive non-native species” is noted as one of the top six climate change risks (and mentioned in the urban forest graphic), there is no corresponding objectives or proposals to counter this risk through biosecurity, procurement and tree health monitoring.

Green infrastructure

London tree

Question 1: The Mayor’s ambition is to make London a National Park City. What should the attributes of a National Park City be and what would we need to achieve for it to be considered successful?
The ambition to become the first national park city is both innovative and exciting. One of the most difficult tasks will be ensuring the protection of existing natural assets like woods and trees, and then securing sustainable, long-term management of London’s woodlands, parks, open spaces and nature reserves.

Question 2: In what ways can the Mayor help to ensure a more strategic and coordinated approach to the management of London's network of parks and green spaces?
Tackling the failures currently within the planning system in order to protect existing habitats and to encourage more greenspaces in new development can only be a good thing. The LES highlights that the quality and access of parks has sadly decreased in recent years. More needs to be done though to ensure existing wooded areas, especially the irreplaceable ancient woodland around the city and London's unique and impressive array of ancient and veteran trees, are effectively protected and will be properly cared for long term. 

Question 3: Do you think the proposed policies and programmes will ensure London’s important wildlife is protected and enhanced?
YES – if they are backed up by strong policies in the London Plan and; there is a commitment to checking that London boroughs’ Local Plans are in conformity with these new planning policies, and that planning applications affecting important wildlife are assessed by the GLA

Question 4: Do you think the proposed policies and programmes will be effective in increasing London’s tree canopy cover?
YES – as long as appropriate resources and funds are committed to support this. A key action will be a proactive search for suitable land for planting, especially in the urban fringe. This may also require buying and preparing land for woodland creation, a process the Mayor has separately suggested for providing new and affordable housing.

Question 5: How best can ‘natural capital thinking’ be used to secure greater investment in the capital’s green infrastructure?
Natural Capital Accounting is the first step in valuing natural resources – other approaches such as iTree assessments can go further in valuing the on-going contribution of Ecosystem Services.

Air quality

Question 6: Please provide any further comments on the policies and programmes mentioned in this chapter.
The pledge to support only the 50 schools with the worst pollution seems like a low target given the number of schools in London. Perhaps this should be 50 per annum. Natural solutions such as street trees and hedges, may only make a small contribution to improving air quality, but will also deliver improvements across other topics of the LES.

What’s next?

For more details about the strategy and what the Trust thinks, see our blog. You can find the full strategy documents and further details about the plans and the Mayor's next steps for the LES on the Greater London Authority website. A full list of the consultation questions can also be downloaded separately.

We’ll continue to work with the GLA as the LES develops and post the latest news in our blog. We’ll update campaigners when the final strategy is published, expected in 2018.

A new draft London Plan is expected to be published next year. We want this to include aims to update planning policies that protect ancient woodland and veteran trees, and to increase tree canopy cover.

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