There’s a lot at stake in this election, as the main parties vie to take the helm as the UK leaves the EU in the coming months and years. So it’s good to see woods and trees included in their visions for the country laid out in the manifestos.
As soon as the Election was announced, we published our ‘Priorities for the UK Parliament 2017’ and communicated it to all those responsible for writing the manifestos of the main UK political parties, encouraging them to recognise the importance of woods and trees.
As laid out in a previous blog, our priorities include ensuring that EU environmental laws and principles are fully transposed into UK law, ensuring that we take the opportunity of Brexit to fashion a new land use policy for the UK which really takes advantage of the benefits of woods and trees, and calling for overdue action on ancient woodland protection and for an end to woeful planting rates.
So, of the the main party manifestos published so far, we were encouraged to see them each having something positive to say about the importance of and need for woods and trees in improving our communities and our country.
The Labour manifesto, published first, pledged to:
"Plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management”, and also to keep forests in public hands.
Next came the Liberal Democrats, who promised to:
"Reverse the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next 10 years, and protect remaining ancient woodlands.”
Then came the Conservatives, who promised:
“In addition to the 11 million trees we are planting across our nation, we will ensure that 1 million more are planted in our towns and cities, and place new duties on councils to consult when they wish to cut down street trees.”
“We will continue to ensure that public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation, and provide stronger protections for our ancient woodland.”
We're pressing the next Government to go further
Apart from these very tree and woodland-specific pledges, the manifestos also talked about the environment and nature more generally – including air quality and long-term planning for the natural environment – as well as detailing their infrastructure and housing plans, and are worth a read for more information on these aspects which are also of relevance to our work.
As a charity, the Woodland Trust takes no political view and will work to influence any Government that is elected to help ensure our ideas are picked up and enacted. With these ideas now out there and evidently in the minds of many of the key people running for election, our priority now is to hold whichever party forms the next Government to its promises on the environment, and to help them to do so wherever we can.
But above all, our plan is to press the next Government to go further than what’s in the manifestos and build into policies – from housing to Brexit to transport – action that really harnesses the wide and multiple benefits of woods and trees.