Tree provision

MQT on 2016-10-19
Session date: 
October 19, 2016
Question By: 
Tony Devenish
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How do you intend to meet your election pledge to plant two million trees by 2020, and will you confirm that no GLA-funded trees have so far been planted under your mayoralty?


Answer for Tree provision

Answer for Tree provision

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question, Assembly Member Devenish.  In my manifesto I stated that I would, and I quote:


“... embark on a major tree‑planting programme across London in partnership with businesses and the public sector.”


I remain fully committed to that promise and to planting trees across the capital.  Trees have a wholly positive contribution to our urban landscape.  They visibly define London’s green credentials and help to clean our air.  As the Assembly  will be aware, trees also improve our resilience to the changing climate and positively contribute to making London an attractive and economically vibrant city. 


You have asked what funding the GLA has spent on this already during my first months in office.  It is standard practice to plant trees during the off season.  People who know better than me tell me that the tree‑planting season runs from the end of November to early March each year.  In addition, I have recently appointed my Deputy Mayor for the Environment, Shirley Rodrigues, who started just over two weeks ago. 


However, I should make clear that I inherited a 2016/17 budget that did not include any funds for tree‑planting.  This is simply not good enough and I will ensure that more trees are planted to improve London’s air quality and make London a more attractive place to live and work.  Shirley and the team are tasked with developing plans to deliver on my commitment to tree‑planting and it’s a campaign that will gear up over the coming months.  It is important that we get this tree‑planting campaign right and plant trees in the right places.  My environment team is currently exploring suitable sites for tree‑planting with borough involvement and are developing an approach to involve Londoners, both businesses and local communities. 


I am also keen to ensure that major infrastructure projects, London’s transport and regeneration programmes maximise every opportunity to include trees and other green infrastructure.  I will therefore explore whether changes to policy in the London Plan could improve tree‑planting. 


I should add that, remarkably, in addition to not budgeting any funds for tree‑planting, the previous administration did not operate an adequate system that could record all the trees planted and funded across the entire GLA group.  I therefore asked my team to improve the system for monitoring tree‑planting across the GLA group and to ensure they get much better information about what trees are being planted, where, when and how many. 


Tony Devenish AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  That is the longest statement ever for a broken promise I have heard from you.  Your tweet of 30 November 2015 at 11.54 was, and I quote:


“I will plant 2 million trees in London in my first term as Mayor, focusing around our schools.”


Are you still going to plant 2 million trees before the end of your first term, please?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I was quite clear in what my manifesto said and I quoted that to you in my answer.  I will quote it to you again:


“I will embark on a major tree‑planting programme across London in partnership with businesses and the public sector.”


Tony Devenish AM:  Broken promises, broken promises and, I am afraid, even more broken promises.  The Chair of the Environment Committee is not here today.  Was she embarrassed?  I know she is as passionate as I am about building ‑‑ sorry, growing.  I will grow the trees rather than build the trees. 


As someone who was a MP during the MP expenses scandal, Mr Mayor, have you forgotten how important public trust is for those of us who are elected to office?  Your tweet clearly says, “I will plant 2 million trees in London in my first term”.  There are no caveats.  There is no, “Something else was said in my manifesto”.  There was no, “I will get my Deputy Mayor to slip out a U‑turn during one of our scrutiny meetings”.  You gave a commitment.  Will you plant 2 million trees for Londoners in this term?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Is it my turn now?  As I have already stated, my manifesto commitment was to ‑‑


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  You have told us twice, Mr Mayor.  You have read that out twice.  Are you able to answer what Mr Devenish asked?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  He asked the question how he wanted to.  I will answer it how I want to.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Of course, but you have read it out twice already.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  He has, clearly, not heard.  As I have already stated, my manifesto commitment was to embark on a major tree‑planting programme and that is what I am committed to do.  The current Climate Change Adaption Strategy ‑‑


Tony Devenish AM:  I get ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Let me finish.  …. includes a target to increase tree cover by 5% from 20% to 25% by 2025.  I will ensure that during my current term we will plant enough trees to ensure we are on the right trajectory to achieve that target. 


Tony Devenish AM:  Mr Mayor, this is the one thing in my political career that I would guess that hopefully we could agree on.  It is cross‑party across all parties.  Everybody on any planning committee I have ever sat on is pro‑tree.  When you talk about 2 million trees, it is 2 million trees.  It is not the usual caveats.  These broken promises will come back to haunt you, Mr Mayor, they really will.  To finish on a Labour former Chancellor, Denis Healey, “When in a hole, stop digging”.  In this case, next spring you should start digging 2 million trees. 


I finally ask you: will you go back to your Deputy Mayor  and reconsider whether you can meet this manifesto commitment, please?  All Londoners, regardless of party, will want you to be pro‑tree.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I am not sure ‑‑


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you.  This is for us, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I thought you were enjoying the theatre, Chairman.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I do enjoy the theatre and of course we Arbours are very keen on trees. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I find it astonishing you say that, given that the current budget from the poster boy Foreign Secretary has zero money for tree‑planting.


The Assembly Member talked about building trees - which in itself beggars belief - not once but twice.  He then talked about digging next spring.  The tree‑planting season, Assembly Member Devenish, is from November to March, I am told.  We are on course to do better than the previous guy.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you, Mr Mayor.