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The Environment Debate

Geoff Juden, Chairman of The East London Garden Society, is passionate about having a better environment for us to live in and working with those that believe in the same.

Living in London is always challenging, so he listened to the environment debate between the 2021 London Mayoral candidates. 

The Mayor of London has limited power over environmental issues since that rests with The London Legacy Development Corporation and Transport for London. Geoff was therefore interested to learn what the Mayor could achieve.

The answer from the debate was 'very little' since the Mayor has to work with the local borough authorities to achieve anything. The only item worth mentioning is the target to reduce harm to what nature we have, without due recompense.

Tree wish

Leonie Cooper, speaking for the incumbent mayor (Sadiq Khan), stated that any nature lost to development must be compensated by means of a greater amount of biodiversity than that lost so as to at least equal out that loss.

At present, this is never the case as most developers wish to maximise their outlay which includes minimising expenditure by some local authorities, so that nature always comes last. 

Recently, Geoff has been talking about the loss of a nature reserve without an ecology report in Tower Hamlets and the removal of bat roosts without the correct legal measures being in place, plus the felling of eighteen mature trees.

Limehouse Triangle

Although not a large nature area, it was an important one.

The compensation offered by Tower Hamlets was the planting of six saplings and a green roof on the new development, which will most probably fail through neglect.

If local authorities do not care why should larger developers?

During the debate, the majority of replies were to work with local authorities to achieve better targets by 2035, 2050 or sooner since there cannot be policy initiatives without the local boroughs. It was also astonishing to find out that Mayor Khan's budget for his publicity appears to be greater than the environment budget.

Although there was support amongst those attending to have a moratorium on the felling of mature trees in London, because trees are the best way to maintain cleaner air in the capital, there was no overall agreement on this.

Glyphospate damage

To achieve anything, the Mayor of London would have to coordinate the local authorities. As was seen with the glyphosate issue, a minority of London boroughs are pushing hard for a ban on the use of Glyphosate, and a few have banned its use, but others don’t care.

This in spite of the probability of a total ban in Europe after 2022. Although all candidates will work with the boroughs to phase out the use of Glyphosate, all poisons should be phased out in public parks and gardens.

The question that has to be asked, if the Mayor of London is more or less powerless to offer any solutions, and all incumbents to date have broken promises and targets, what is the purpose of the position?

We already have Executive and Lead Members who are the leaders of London's thirty-three councils and meet to discuss and agree policy issues of importance to Londoners. Each year the Leaders' Committee elects a chair, Deputy Chair and Vicechairs for the organisation, as well as executive and lead members for key policy priorities.

Democracy is important, and Geoff a avid fan, but should we over democratise when it is not necessary? 

Alternatively, should The Greater London Assembly be given powers to override local authorities, especially when it comes to the destruction of the urban environment which is not just a borough issue, but a London one? 

Food for thought, since we all talk about the air quality in London.