Cllr Paul Donovan on Redbridge and the climate emergency

The process is slow but change is coming. The impetus is coming from the local communities. More and more tree pits are being adopted by residents. Individuals are provided with seeds to develop the pits.

We have been doing this for many years in the road where I live. The transformation in the street is amazing to behold in spring and summer.

There has also been the positioning of planters around the borough, which again encourages biodiversity. The ones outside the town hall are particularly splendid.

Voluntary groups like the Wanstead Community Gardeners and other offshoots have done fantastic work to improve the streets.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Paul Donovan's street looks better all year round because of tree pitsPaul Donovan’s street looks better all year round because of tree pits

The council has been encouraging different streets to become pollinator pathways. This scheme extends sustainable living, so that residents take over management of much of the biodiversity.

So, people in the road agree to deal with the weeds and care for tree pits. It is an important way of cutting back on pesticides.

One ambition for Redbridge going forward must be the phasing out of pesticide use. It damages human and plant health.

There are also the Grow Zones that have been allowed to go wild. The biodiversity coming from these developments has been most encouraging. More are needed borough wide.

Tree planting has continued in open spaces, as well as on the streets – this helps remove the carbon dioxide from the environment as well as increasing biodiversity.

On the active travel side, the cycle network is growing all of the time. If people feel safe, they will cycle to get around. That safety, includes clean air to breath which is improved from ULEZ and the expansion of the school streets programme.

It is excellent in Wanstead that it is now possible to cycle in protected lanes or through Wanstead Park to get from the north to the south of town.

There is much still to be done, with expansion of cycle hangars on residential streets a must.
More 20mph areas across the borough are also important, especially for safety.

The advance of the electric car is another plus when it comes to expanding sustainable living. There are plans for more charging points to be rolled out across the borough.

Better public transport is another must. London is fortunate with the public transport network compared to other parts of the country but availability and affordability can always be improved.

So there are a lot of positive things happening, they just need to be speed up. Funding is often key with environmental issues not being given the priority they should be. Budgetary cuts from central government has not helped – more could happen more quickly if this funding were restored.

We are in a climate emergency – it needs to be treated as such and given the priority merited.

  • Paul Donovan is Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward, Redbridge Council and a blogger (

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