Our green and pleasant land

South Woodford community orchard

Ahead of a virtual meeting of Redbridge Council’s new climate forum, Councillor Jo Blackman, Cabinet Member for Environment and Civic Pride, outlines plans to improve greenery across the borough

The pandemic made us all realise the importance of green space in and around our neighbourhoods. The benefits of green space are extensive and well documented – for our own health and well-being as well as for the global climate, nature and biodiversity.

Redbridge Council has recently undertaken a thorough review and update of its policies for managing our green space. For the first time ever, we have a Green Urban Landscape Policy that puts nature and an equitable distribution of green space at its heart.

Nearly 500 people participated in the consultation, showing the value our residents also put on our green space – with environmental concerns and societal benefits featuring prominently in the submissions.

In line with the views received, our new strategy puts the needs of residents and nature at its heart as it sets out how the council will protect, manage and improve greenery and trees.

The action plan included in the policy sets out a number of actions the council will take over the next three years.

We aim to plant over 2,000 new highway trees in addition to several hundred replacement trees, and to replant many shrubs that have been lost from highway beds. This is in addition to thousands more trees that will be planted on other sites across the borough as we seek to support the London-wide target of a 10% increase in canopy cover by 2050.

We have trialled a number of grow zones across the borough where we left grass verges to grow to benefit biodiversity. Initial studies of these sites have revealed an incredible variety of plants and insects, with over 100 different plants identified. We therefore plan to increase these to cover 50,000 square metres across the borough, which equates to 25% of high grass verges.

Our new policy rightly recognises that we need to work with residents to promote the value of our green space, and to help us protect, manage and enhance it.

Our tree pit adoption scheme saw over 1,300 tree pits signed up for adoption this year and we are aiming to double this. Next year, we’ll also be giving away free packets of wild flower seeds to all those who adopt a tree pit. So, make sure you adopt yours – all those who have previously adopted them will need to reapply again this year.

We’re grateful to all our community groups, including the Wanstead and South Woodford Community Gardeners, Wild Wanstead and the South Woodford urban orchard, as well as those that maintain the green space around our places of worship and schools. These groups play a vital role, enhancing our natural environment and building strong communities. To support these and other groups across the borough, we’re giving away a record 50,000 bulbs this year for planting in publicly accessible sites.

We also want to encourage people to improve greenery on private land and we will soon be publishing details of our winter fruit tree giveaway.

Finally, we will be hosting an online session on 1 December to explain more about the Green Urban Landscape Policy and our plans to improve greenery and tackle climate change, and how you can get involved.

Applications to adopt a tree pit close on 30 November. Visit swvg.co.uk/adoptatreepit

To take part in the virtual meeting of Redbridge Council’s new climate forum (1 December, 6.30pm), visit swvg.co.uk/climateforum